Educating women with diabetes


Five to 10 per cent of Canadians are affected by diabetes. About half are women.

One of those women is Claudette Banks. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a year and a half ago, at age 55. Now she needs to be vigilant about blood sugar levels, diet, and exercise. Basically, she had to change her life.

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be an emotional and overwhelming experience. Many patients, like Banks, find out they have diabetes after the age of 40 and find it difficult to incorporate diabetes into their lives. Banks’ cardiac rehab physiotherapist recommended she attend the Midlife Women and Type 2 Diabetes Program at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) run by the Tri-Hospital Diabetes Education Centre (TRIDEC).

Banks agreed and met with a small group every week, for two hours, over six weeks. While attending the sessions, she had regular interaction with a nurse, a dietitian, a physiotherapist and a social worker who listened to her needs and provided information and guidance on diabetes management.

“I’ve been to other diabetes sessions before, but this one was different,” says Banks. “We were able to discuss me, personally. I made goals that related to me and my lifestyle.”

Instead of changing the way patients live, TRIDEC programs teach individuals to manage diabetes within their daily routines. Through the Midlife program, Banks was able to establish a daily regime that works specifically for her.

“I found that it worked best to fast and to test my blood sugar in the morning,” adds Banks. “It sets the tone of the day for me, and then I know what I can and can’t eat. It makes the day easier.”

There are many diabetes education centres and programs throughout the country. But TRIDEC at WCH is unique because it focuses on women with diabetes. It is also recognized as one of the leading programs in Canada.

“We want to help patients with diabetes live longer, healthier lives,” says Jacqueline Follis, Advanced Practice Nurse at TRIDEC, WCH. “We offer the patient the power to manage their own diabetes. We educate them – then they can decide the best way to incorporate diabetes into their life.”

There are three types of diabetes that can affect women – Type 1, Type 2 and gestational (during pregnancy). Each can occur at a different life stage, and each requires different levels of care and attention, so it’s important for patients to have specialized programs to meet their specific needs. If blood sugar levels are not well controlled, there can be complications such as heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage and amputation of limbs.

Courses available through TRIDEC include:

• Choices, a workshop designed to enable people with Type 1 diabetes to make informed decisions about their daily diabetes management.

• Finding Balance, an eight week workshop for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, with the goal of reducing stress that can interfere with blood sugar and blood pressure

• Living Well with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a lifestyle management class covering topics such as ‘what is PCOS’, healthy eating and physical activity, with an emphasis on the prevention of Type 2diabetes.

• Support the Supporters, an interactive support group that gives spouses, partners and families the opportunity to share their concerns and experiences with each other.

• ADP—Insulin Pump Program, an information session on what to expect from insulin pump therapy.

• All About Insulin, an introductory class on management of insulin therapy for individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

• Transition Program for Young Adults with Type 1 Diabetes, designed to help young adults navigate the adult health-care system.

• Active Living with Diabetes, to familiarize individuals with Type 2 Diabetes about the guidelines for physical activity.

• Diabetes and Pregnancy Clinic, helps promote a healthy lifestyle before, during pregnancy and after delivery.

“By educating patients to incorporate diabetes in their everyday life, we see results – healthier patients,” concludes Follis.

For more information about the various TRIDEC programs, please visit