Diabetes Self-Management Class Inspires Important Health Changes

Charlie Kuntzman was skeptical when he walked into his first Diabetes Self-Management class last November at Taylorville Memorial Hospital (TMH).

The 82-year-old diabetic, who had retired as an investigative analyst in 1995 from the FBI after 40 years of service, was gaining weight, taking four high blood pressure medications daily and drinking nearly a 12-pack of diet soda each day. Normally an upbeat person, he was turning into a nervous wreck.

“The older I got, the more weight I started gaining. I had no energy, and it really started concerning me,” Charlie said. “I was apprehensive because I thought I had it all down – but some of the simplest things that should have been obvious just were not.”

Janelle Cornell, RD, LDN, clinical dietitian, has worked for TMH nearly 24 years. She teaches the Diabetes Self-Management class with Sarah Tierney, RN, CDE. The classes are designed to help people manage their diabetes, whether they are newly diagnosed or have been diabetic for a long time.

The eight-hour class (divided into four two-hour weekly sessions) includes information about diagnosis, treatment, medications, diet and nutrition, lifestyle modifications and glucose monitoring. The colorful balanced plate, which illustrates on a real plate how many non-starchy vegetables, grains/fruits, protein and dairy to have in a serving, made a positive impression on Charlie during the class. He also made immediate changes to the timing of his insulin each day.

“I was taking my insulin at the wrong time,” Charlie said. “Now I take it 15 – 30 minutes before I eat. I also started to realize that if I had high blood pressure or high blood sugar that I needed to do without a lot of salt and diet soda.”

Small class size helped set a tone in which Charlie was comfortable asking questions and sharing about his situation. Janelle and Sarah tailor the classes to the individuals who are in the class. In Charlie’s case, they also zeroed in on his sodium intake and practical ways to cut back on how much salt he was consuming.

Over the holiday season, Charlie lost more than 20 pounds. He was intentional about his portions – especially the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving! His knees and his back aren’t bothering him as much, and his energy levels have increased. An avid deer hunter, he looks forward to climbing his deer stand next hunting season – something he didn’t have the energy to do this past fall.

“I have a heartfelt thank you for what this class has done for me,” he said. “As you get older, you start worrying more about your health and how much longer you’ve got. When you see the results for me – it was 100 percent from that class.”

Want more information about Diabetes Self-Management classes offered through Taylorville Memorial Hospital and Memorial Health System? Contact Janelle Cornell at cornell.janelle@mhsil.com or call 217-824-1840.