Diabetes Education Inspires Couple to Battle Disease with Love

A support system. That is what Toni and Gus found in each other during an “Everyone with Diabetes Counts” (EDC) class in York, Pennsylvania. When the two met in their first class, uncertain and alone in their fight against diabetes, they realized they were battling many of the same issues.

Gus, who had been living with diabetes for about 35 years, felt as though he had nothing to live for; diabetes and depression were taking a toll on his health.

Repeatedly checking his blood sugar and adjusting his insulin unit injections at each meal, he could relate to Toni who was having difficulty adapting to a life and schedule surrounding insulin injections. In her 25 years with diabetes, Toni had not attended a diabetes awareness course because she could not afford the co-pay for classes in the York area.

The development of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) EDC program for all beneficiaries in the area brought the pair together, providing Toni with the opportunity to learn about her disease, the strength to manage her health and even a support partner with whom she found love.

A few months after meeting, Toni and Gus moved in together, inspiring and pushing one another to lead happier and healthier lives. “I’ve never, ever, felt this great in the last 20 years,” said Gus.

Gus and Toni stress the importance of building a buddy system when you have a chronic disease like diabetes, proving this concept through their own lifestyle improvements. According to the pair, having a meal partner makes them more accountable in their food choices and gives them someone with whom they can communicate their needs, discuss their fears and share their accomplishments.

“Peer support is key,” said Sue Fleck, subject matter expert for the EDC program at CMS. “The collaborative environment that an EDC class provides is a great forum for individuals to share triumphs and tribulations associated with a disease like diabetes and to learn about ways to prevent complications with others in the same position.”

Not only does the EDC program improve the quality of life for Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes, but it also allows family members and caregivers to be involved. Since family members are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, Gus and Toni stress the importance of making loved ones aware of the risk factors and ways to prevent diabetes.

This story originally appeared in the Feb. 2016 issue of QIO News http://qioprogram.org/qionews/articles/diabetes-education-inspires-couple-battle-chronic-disease-love