Regardless of her glasses, Lynn Kelsey’s bright-blue eyes stand out as one of her most vivid features.
During a recent checkup, her eye doctor told her they show no signs of effects from the Type 2 diabetes she was diagnosed with nine years ago.
Kelsey is proud of that, just as she’s taken pride in managing her diabetes as closely as she can.
The Penticton woman was one of several patients in Kamloops this week for a two-day diabetes collaborative meeting that allowed people living with the disease to tell those who can help exactly what they need.
That is, after all, what collaboration is about.
Kelsey’s message to the other collaborators, who came from Kelowna, Lillooet and Williams Lake to talk about how patients, dietitians, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and others can make health care for diabetics better, was to listen.
It’s an 18-month pilot project with teams from those communities who will soak up patients’ viewpoints and make changes based on that input. The teams meet five times in a year and hold regular webinars to share information.
“The main thing is, it’s not about them doing it (health care) to me or for me, it’s about doing it with me,” she said.
Her comments drew nods from Dr. Maureen Clement, medical lead, and Colleen Kennedy, director of the diabetes collaborative, an initiative of Interior Health to help improve management of diabetes.
“The cost for patients is tremendous in terms of health care and quality of life,” said Kennedy.
Similar collaborations have been done for other patients, such as those who have suffered strokes. With the cost of treating diabetes doubling since 2001, it seemed a natural disease to focus on.
“Diabetes is costly to people living with diabetes. They can lose their vision, they can lose their feet, they can lose their health, they can lose their relationships,” said Clement.
As the population ages, the incidence of diabetes rises. Diabetics who have already had the disease for a long time are reaching a point where they’re getting more complications, while newcomers are arriving in the system as they age into it, she said.
Interior Health has 53,000 patients with diabetes, and there are untold numbers who haven’t been diagnosed. In Kamloops and region, the count is more than 8,000.
Kelsey wasn’t a typical diabetes patient. She has asthma, which puts her at risk because of taking high doses of prednisone for years, and diabetes is in her family.
But she was a diabetes educator with the Canadian Diabetes Association.
The disease was unavoidable, but her knowledge of the resources available was invaluable in getting help that has kept her diabetes in check.
“For me, the key is supporting patients’ self-management,” she said.
What professionals need to know is how they can help patients with their co-operation and participation.
“I’m looking to inspire the people who are part of this collaboration to be part of the change,” said Kelsey.