Learning to share: Group meetings offer good support

Do you attend your local diabetes or weight loss surgery support group meetings? Blount Memorial Hospital’s Weight Management Center facilitates both the weight loss surgery and diabetes support group meetings. The groups are an excellent place to give and receive emotional support and exchange information. They are made up of people with common interests. Many valuable lessons can be learned by listening to others with shared experiences.

Support groups also provide positive reinforcement and encouragement, especially for diabetes and weight loss surgery patients. Our support groups allow patients to meet other people and develop lasting friendships in addition to receiving beneficial information.

Weight loss surgery support groups are a vital part of long-term success following weight loss surgery. Changes in eating and exercise lifestyle patterns are required, and support from others who are undergoing the same lifestyle changes is very beneficial. The weight loss surgery support groups are led by registered nurses and registered dietitians who are available to offer professional advice and support. Family members and support people also are encouraged to attend support group meetings. Regular attendance is correlated with long-term maintenance following surgery. Gastric bypass and gastric band support groups are on-going and one is planned for November. A gastric sleeve support group will start in 2011.

Diabetes support groups allow diabetes patients the opportunity to see that diabetes does not have to affect quality of life. Others have gone through the same things you are experiencing, so you are not alone and your diabetes can be controlled.

When I meet with my diabetes patients for their individual appointments, I try to spend a few minutes talking to them about the importance of attending a support group. Diabetes education does not end with attending our outpatient program. Patients receive long-term support from Blount Memorial’s staff of certified diabetes educators.

During diabetes class, patients set two to three goals. These goals are areas the patient feels he or she needs to work on to improve blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy lifestyle long-term. We have patients who completed our program several years ago who still call us from time to time to ask questions or just let us know how they are doing.

After completion of the class, patients are asked to complete a six-month phone follow-up to see if they are meeting the goals they set. I have had the privilege of working with our diabetes patients and their families for the past seven years, and I have been able to see how some of our patients have transformed their lives.

The Blount Memorial Diabetes Support Group meets on the second Tuesday of each month with the exception of December and the summer months (June, July and August). The support group meets at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the cancer center in conference room one. There is no charge to attend the support group and it is open to the community.

I strongly encourage anyone who has diabetes or is a caregiver for someone with diabetes to attend these meetings. To register for the Nov. 9 support group or for more information about diabetes-related programs, call 865- 977-5767.

Dawn Hollaway is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and program coordinator for the Blount Memorial Diabetes Management Center.

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