Uninsured patients learn self-management tips
Ninety-five percent of diabetes management “is the responsibility of the person who has it,” says Gina Gavlak RN, BSN, Diabetes Program Development Coordinator at the Lakewood Hospital Diabetes and Endocrine Center. That’s why education is so important.
“Diabetes is incredibly complex. If you don’t understand the disease, how it affects your body, learn how medications, diet, and exercise affect blood sugar levels and how to check your blood sugar and use the numbers to guide your management decisions, it is very difficult to successfully manage it,” Ms. Gavlak says. “Diabetes is a disease that affects the blood vessels and nerves. Higher than normal blood sugar levels increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes complications, including blindness, kidney disease, lower limb amputations and heart disease. Every single system in the body can be affected by diabetes.”
The Diabetes Assistance Initiative, a program offered by Lakewood and Marymount Hospitals, helps uninsured and underinsured individuals who are at or below the federal poverty guidelines. The program provides scholarships for up to 10 hours of education, which allows a patient to meet with a dietitian and/or certified diabetes nurse educator, individually or in group classes.
“It is recommended that people receive ongoing education with a dietitian and diabetes educator, as a person’s diabetes management needs can frequently change,” says Ms. Gavlak, who oversees the program at Lakewood Hospital. “When people meet with our educators, we work with the individual to identify what his/her unique needs are and develop a management plan to best fit that person’s lifestyle and meet his/her needs. This plan is created using a team approach.” The team generally consists of the person with diabetes, a dietitian, certified diabetes nurse educator, the patient’s primary care physician and/or endocrinologist, along with an ophthalmologist, podiatrist and other specialists based on a patient’s medical conditions.
In addition to diabetes education, the initiative provides funds for prescription diabetes medications and supplies. The program was started through a grant, and is sustained at Lakewood Hospital by support acquired through Lakewood Hospital Foundation and the hospital’s annual Starry Night event.
To date, the program has been very successful and has had a positive impact on the lives of those who have received scholarships and/or medication vouchers. On average, hemoglobin A1c levels, a blood test which measures the average blood sugar over a three-month period, have decreased by 2.5 percent.
Here are a few of the comments that participants included on their evaluation forms after attending education sessions offered through the Diabetes Assistance Initiative:
- “I am very grateful for all you have done for me.” – Rosemary, 48, uninsured; A1c decreased from 12.4 to 10.9 percent after education classes.
- “So far the program is showing good results! I’m glad I found out about the program.” – Donald, 63, underinsured; lost 13 pounds in three months after meeting with a dietitian for meal planning for diabetes management.
- “The teachers took time to answer all of my personal questions.” – Olson, 53, uninsured; A1c decreased from 12.1 to 6.6 percent after attending group education classes.
- “Wow, what a difference!” – John, 59, uninsured; A1c decreased from 14.8 to 8.4 percent after attending education classes.
To make a gift supporting the Diabetes Assistance Initiative, Lakewood Hospital, Marymount Hospital or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure online giving site, or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.