Diabetes Self Care, An Alternative Approach

 In Being Healthy, Conditions & Treatments
Diabetes Self Care

Diabetes Self Care, An Alternative Approach

Personalized health care through whole person wellness is the foundation for services provided at the Camas Center Clinic. Our method of care revolves around the understanding that our patients are more than a name or number in a chart, and acknowledging the diversity in the lifestyles of the individuals who utilize our clinic. If they are a mother, a big sister, an athlete, a low income family, all these factors play a major role in the type of health care they desire. At the Camas Center Clinic, we strive to understand the whole person to assist our patients toward total wellness. This ideology has created new programming focusing on diabetes mellitus in the Kalispel Community.

Diabetes is no longer the crisis diagnosis it was 20 years ago. Extensive research, pharmaceutical innovations, and a better understanding of this metabolic disorder has led to better care for all diabetic patients. At the Camas Center Clinic, a program funded though the Indian Health Service known as the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) has taken the clinical side of diabetes and combined it with life skill education to help patients achieve diabetic self care. Individuals of all ages are taught to cook, grow vegetable gardens, increase their daily physical activity, learn to understand their medications, and learn to accurately take their glucose levels.

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Learning how, what and when to cook has shown to be a major obstacle in diabetic patients at the Camas Center Clinic. A diabetes diagnosis sends most patients into a panic. Questions quickly arise like, “What do I eat? When do I eat? How much can I eat?” which in some cases leads to, “I don’t know how to cook!”  To address this need, the Kalispel Tribe hired a nutrition educator to be onsite at the Camas Center Clinic. The nutrition educator works closely with all medical staff in helping establish calorie goals, personalized meal planning, and providing general nutrition education. In addition to providing clinic services, the nutrition educator also incorporates life skill classes to help diabetic patients learn to cook, how to shop, and how to read food labels to make the food choices that are right for their families and themselves. These classes are held every other week on the Kalispel Reservation.

In addition to community cooking classes, the SDPI program also works extensively with the Rural Aging Program to improve the health and quality of life of our community elders. Monthly elder’s luncheons showcasing a variety of healthy food options encourages elders to make healthier food choices, and also introduces new ideas and strategies for leading healthy lives. In addition to monthly luncheons, the nutrition educator attends elders focused clinics and outings to assist with any nutrition needs the elders group may have. Collaborating with the Rural Aging Specialist also increases community elder participation in the number of annual check-ups, diabetic check-ups and medical interventions.

The gardening program was started by the Washington State University Extension office in Pend Oreille County in the early 2000’s. The nutrition educator, being a former employee of the WSU Extension office, knew of this programming and quickly established a partnership to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for Camas Center Clinic patients and the community at large. Utilizing community gardens, including a clinic patient garden, education is provided on how to properly create, plan, grow, maintain, and harvest garden produce. Additionally, garden produce is utilized in cooking classes and to provide free produce to the community. This partnership strengthened the SDPI program by addressing food insecurity and minimal access to fresh produce on the Kalispel Reservation. The gardens provide fresh food, and also low impact physical activity to those involved in classes.

Along with nutrition, physical activity plays a vital role in diabetes self care. Increasing the amount of physical activity in patients has been increasingly effective due to the location of the Camas Center Clinic. Housed in the Camas Center for Community Wellness, patients have access to a full gymnasium, a fully equipped fitness floor that includes specialized equipment for low impact weight bearing exercise, an aquatics center, and free fitness classes. The SDPI program works closely with the health and fitness department in creating new opportunities focused on our patients to help increase physical activity. Currently, the highlight of this partnership is a diabetes prevention kids dance class that involves 4-5 year old students from the Camas Early Learning Center daycare facility. In addition, Native focused physical activities are being planned using culturally relevant physical activity such as the Pow Wow Sweat program developed by the Coeur d’Alene tribe.

New diabetes care programs are being developed every day. The ultimate goal of the SDPI program in the Camas Center Clinic is to empower diabetic patients to take their health into their own hands. Medical care, education, and personal support are the tools we find the most valuable in moving patients toward self care. Providing whole person wellness in the form of personalized health care is proving successful in many medical centers throughout the United States. Using these tools, we are moving toward a healthier and brighter future for the next seven generations.

While the SDPI program is specifically for Native Americans, the Camas Center Clinic has expanded many of the services to the general public. Diabetic nutrition and primary care physician follow up and monitoring, and the food program and cooking classes are all open to the general public. Won’t you join us in our whole person approach to diabetic self care? For more information, visit our website at kalispeltribe.com or call 509-447-7111.

by Wendy Drum, M.A., Special Diabetes Program for Indians, Camas Center Clinic

After earning a Master’s degree from the University of Montana, Wendy Drum moved to beautiful Pend Oreille County and began working for Washington State University in 2009.  Focusing on nutrition education on the Kalispel Reservation, Wendy’s time at WSU paved the road toward her work in the Camas Center Clinic where she began work with the Special Diabetes Program for Indians in 2016.

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