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Montefiore Nyack Hospital Provides Diabetes Education to Blind and Visually Impaired Patients

Nyack, N.Y., September 28, 2015 – Montefiore Nyack Hospital certified diabetes educators recently worked with blind and visually impaired adults with diabetes, teaching them skills to live with and manage their disease.

Denise Roma, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, and Elizabeth Staum, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, taught 14 participants in a three-day workshop sponsored by VISIONS Center on Blindness, an overnight training and vision rehabilitation facility in Spring Valley, NY. It was the second time Roma and Staum taught at the facility.

The participants ranged in age from mid-30s to early 70s. Some had been diagnosed with diabetes in the last year, while others have lived with the disease for more than 20 years. People with diabetes have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes.

“Whether they were newly diagnosed or had diabetes for many years, everyone learned something new,” Roma says. “They weren’t just learning from us, but from each other.”

During the three days, Roma and Staum discussed topics including nutrition, exercise, diabetes medications, and complications from the disease. The last day featured a hands-on session, in which participants were taught how to test their blood sugar with “talking” glucose meters.

Blood glucose meters allow people with diabetes to manage their disease independently, but traditional versions of these meters are very difficult for people with vision loss to use. A talking meter works much in the same way as a regular glucose meter. A person pricks their finger and gets a drop of blood to the end of the test strip, which is inserted into the machine.

“It can be challenging for a visually impaired person to line up the blood drop with the test strip,” Roma says. “We tell them they need to put the strip where they feel the pain from the finger stick.” When the strip is inserted into the meter, the device reads out the result. The group also learned to count clicks on an insulin pen to determine how much insulin they are using.

When the group talked about measuring food portions, they worked with Bill Hixson, OTR/L, CVRT, COMS, Director of Rehab for VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Hixson showed them how to cook with measuring cups with tactile markings that show the size of the cup. They also learned how to use portions of their hands to identify food portion sizes.

“This year was even more successful than last year,” Hixson noted. “Denise Roma and Elizabeth Staum are very knowledgeable. I continue to learn new information from them both.”

“My doctor is going to be so happy with me,” said one participant, named Rich. “He has been telling me to get diabetic education and now I have. I learned so much. I cannot wait to visit my doctor and discuss all I learned.”