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SOWEGA Council on Aging hosts luncheon on diabetes awareness

Luncheon educates on diabetes, Medicare coverage

Phillis Vititoe with the Phoebe Diabetes Care Center shares some basics on diabetes at a recent awareness luncheon on the condition at the SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Life Enrichment Center. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

Phillis Vititoe with the Phoebe Diabetes Care Center shares some basics on diabetes at a recent awareness luncheon on the condition at the SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Life Enrichment Center. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — As a way to raise awareness on how to cope with diabetes, SOWEGA Council on Aging hosted a luncheon recently at its Senior Life Enrichment Center on West Society Avenue.

The event was held at the center ahead of its formal grand opening, which officials at SOWEGA say is set to take place in April. It included an overview on the disease, and how diabetics with Medicare can use that coverage to their full advantage.

Phillis Vititoe with the Phoebe Diabetes Care Center started off by sharing some statistics on diabetes, which 18.8 million people in the United States had been diagnosed with as of the release of the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet available from the American Diabetes Association. She also explained how diabetes effects the body by either making it more resistant to insulin, as is the case with Type 2 diabetes, or getting it to stop production of the hormone altogether, as with Type 1 diabetes — thereby compromising the body’s ability to digest sugar.

“Think of you body like a car. It has to have fuel,” she said. “You can get diabetes many ways. It can be genetic; it can be hereditary.”

She also gave an overview on the importance of portion control and management of blood sugar and how they play a role in managing diabetes, as well as some of the complications that can arise — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, blindness, amputation and neuropathy — and how they can be curtailed by proper management.

She also discussed the changing trends in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, which up until several years ago, were referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes and adult-onset diabetes, respectively.

“This is a disease, but it is very controllable,” Vititoe said. ” … We worry about children. In the 11 years I’ve been doing this, we are seeing more and more children with Type 2. We are seeing children with Type 2, and those with Type 1 in their 30s.

“(People with diabetes) can live a long life. We are seeing patients in their 80s, and they have had diabetes for 40 years.”

Brian Ramey, the Georgia Cares coordinator at the SOWEGA Council on Aging, gave an overview on what diabetics can expect from their Medicare coverage.

Ramey said his office gets dozens of calls from people who are unable to afford their diabetes medications, despite Medicare covering every level of diabetes management.

“(Our goal is) finding a way through the Medicare system to make medications more affordable so they are available when you need them,” he said.

Medicare, under Part B, covers prediabetes care, blood pressure and blood sugar screenings, all tests associated with obesity and yearly wellness checks, Ramey said. Coverage under Part D includes certain medications, including injectable insulin, as well as any mechanism needed for insulin and injection supplies.

“The key is your doctor’s cooperation,” he said. “Be careful in communication with your doctor. You are the patient, you are paying for services, you are the boss.”

Ramey also noted that, for someone diagnosed with kidney disease — which diabetics can be more prone to — Medicare eligibility kicks in regardless of age.

The Georgia Department of Public Health Online Analytical Statistical Information System shows that for 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 44 deaths in Dougherty County related to diabetes. Overall, for the 14-county Southwest Public Health District, there were 150 deaths.