Atlanta Support Group Helps People Who Are Visually Impaired and Have Diabetes

Why Attend Diabetes Support Group

by Empish Thomas, peer advisor

Two women seated while one of them demonstrates the difference between muscle tissue and fat using tactile examples

"To receive new information and resources on diabetes…To receive continuing motivation and support when battling diabetes…It is a safe place to discuss diabetes with peers and attend local diabetes conferences and expos…To learn proper meal preparation and how to use accessible diabetes supplies and devices." These are just some of the comments that were shared by members of a diabetes support group in Atlanta. The group meets weekly at the Center for the Visually Impaired, a rehabilitation center for people with vision loss. This month the nation focuses on diabetes awareness; but at CVI the focus is daily. According to the American Diabetes Association, the number one cause of new vision loss cases in this country for people under 65 is diabetes. CVI recognizes this startling statistic and not only provides classes on managing diabetes but a support group as well.

How the Support Group Helps

Since the late 90's, the group has assisted clients who are blind or visually impaired in managing their diabetes. "The support group was created to help form a social network for people with both diabetes and vision loss," said Lynn Miller, CVI's Diabetes Resource Coordinator and VRT. "There are very few of these groups around the nation, but they are catching on."

Four people sitting at a table during a diabetes support group meeting

Miller goes on to say, "this group helps people cope with daily challenges of good diabetes self management, such as: knowing the devices and skills necessary for blood glucose control,nutrition guidelines and meal planning, foot care, medication administration and how to independently dose and inject insulin."

Exercise and Attending Conferences

As an added bonus; CVI's diabetes group focuses on exercise and attending diabetes conferences and expos. "Since exercise is medicine for blood glucose control, we have incorporated exercise classes for people who are blind or visually impaired," said Miller. Inside of CVI's building there is an exercise room that includes a treadmill, two exercise bikes, a stair climber, weight machines, dumbbells and exercise balls. All exercise equipment has been properly labeled so that a visually impaired person can use them independently. The members have also participated in the ADA annual Step out Walk for Diabetes at a local park. Members are given human guide assistance by a volunteer to walk and participate. Additionally, each year Miller and a group of sighted volunteers escort the support group members to local diabetes conferences. There the group members can peruse the exhibit tables gathering information and resources. They can also attend lectures, healthy cooking demonstrations and meet other people with diabetes.

Guest Speakers Come to Meetings

On occasion during their meetings, support group members will have guest speakers. Some of them come from the medical community discussing various advances in diabetic medications. Others come from social services discussing how Medicare/Medicaid impacts people with diabetes. "Some clients are uninsured and have no medical care when they first arrive in diabetes group," said Miller. "The group provides a place where each member can share what works for them and how to find affordable services and devices."

Woman standing speaking to a diabetes support group

There has even been a guest speaker that focused on proper foot care and gave pedicures, for a nominal fee, to clients. She instructed them on appropriate wound care, the importance of nail clipping and how valuable massaging your feet and toes can be to circulation.

All of these elements make for a powerful and supportive environment for those with vision loss. Members learn important strategies and techniques for diabetic management, get access to information and resources and build long-lasting relationships with others. When dealing with both diabetes and vision loss it is essential to have a place where you can get help, support and encouragement. CVI provides that and more in their diabetes support group.

Personal Stories

  • Vivian: Living with Diabetes and Visual Impairment
    Vivian was diagnosed with diabetes twenty years ago, at age 58. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and spinal stenosis. She talks about how she is living and coping with her diabetes and some of the tools and techniques she uses.

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