East Hartford residents learn diabetes self-management skills

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., May. 20, 2013
Roberta Ruland, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, shares tips on healthy eating at a recent diabetes self-management program at East Hartford Town Hall.  Photo by Corey AmEnde.
Roberta Ruland, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, shares tips on healthy eating at a recent diabetes self-management program at East Hartford Town Hall. Photo by Corey AmEnde.

Can I have sugar in my coffee? To many people this may seem like a very inconspicuous question.  A small detail in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  But to people living with diabetes it's a very important question and one that was raised by Jerry Boucher at a recent diabetes self-management program at the East Hartford Town Hall.

"When I asked a question, can I put sugar in my coffee, she said I could - one teaspoon," recalled a very relieved Bouchar.  "So that was good news because most people that have diabetes think they can't have sugar."

Boucher was one of about a dozen adults who is attending the four-week session taught by registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Roberta Ruland.  The most recent edition of the program started on Monday, May 6, and runs each Monday for four consecutive weeks, excluding Memorial Day, concluding on June 3.  Classes start at 10 a.m. and last for two hours.

This program is offered at no cost and is underwritten by the State Department of Public Health.  Grant funding for this program is $8,599 for the current local fiscal year.

This is the fifth year that the program has been offered to East Hartford residents, 3,500 of which are estimated to have diabetes.  The goal of the program is to supply participants with the education and tools they need to successfully manage the disease.

"When I came here I thought it was going to be brutal," said Bouchar.  "I thought she was going to tell me no sugar, no this, no potatoes, no butter, none of this.  But it's not that bad."

Ruland said a lot of the information in the program is centered on how to properly self-monitor the disease.  She talks with participants about exercising, healthy eating, medication and ways to prevent complications.

"Diabetes can be managed and its serious complications avoided," said Mayor Marcia Leclerc.  "With this program, we hope to impart to our neighbors the knowledge, the means and the moral support to fight this disease.  Every person in this town and country has the right to live healthy and productive lives."

The basics on eating healthy include eating your meals on time, eating three balanced meals a day, eating a variety of foods, eating meals four to five hours apart and not skipping meals. "If they have the tools they can make healthy choices," said Ruland, a diabetes educator since 1995.  "Diabetes is a self-management disease.  My goal is to educate people so they can make decisions to improve their health."

Boucher said the decision to improve his health was aided by friends with good intentions who kept urging him to stop smoking and go see a doctor. "Finally I got sick of them telling me what to do and I went," confessed Boucher.  "One day I drove in and I said I want to see a doctor and I've been going to doctors ever since." The 66-year-old East Hartford resident joined the class to learn more about his disease - a disease that affects nearly 26 million Americans.

"I was diagnosed by my doctor with diabetes type 2 about a year ago and I've been on medication since then," explained Boucher.  "I don't understand the disease because the doctor never explained it to me and what the disease was, so that's why I'm here, to learn more about my disease and if there is anything I can do to prolong my life."

Contact the East Hartford Health Department at 860-291-7324 to learn more about this program.  Another series of classes is in the works for this fall.

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