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New support group targets diabetes

WESTFIELD-For older adults who wish to learn more about diabetes, a new Sweet Relief Diabetes Support Group goal is to shed light on the disease.

The launch of the monthly gathering will be Feb. 19 from 1 – 2:30 p.m. at the Westfield Senior Center on Noble Street. The group will meet on the third Wednesday of every month and will be facilitated by licensed nutritionist and registered dietitian Jennifer Giffune, RDN, who has a private practice on Elm Street.

Jennifer Giffune, RDN, will begin facilitating a Sweet Relief Diabetes Support Group at the Westfield Senior Center on Feb. 19. (Andrea Bugbee Photo)

“The Council on Aging staff members are encountering an increasing number of senior center participants who are diabetic,” said Tina Gorman, executive director, Westfield Council on Aging. “Some are newly diagnosed while others have been living with diabetes for years.”

Gorman added that another category of people she is hearing from are those who are diagnosed pre-diabetic.

“The Sweet Relief group will be beneficial for all of them,” said Gorman.

Gorman said the target group is older adults who have Type I or Type II diabetes and those who are pre-diabetic.

“Older adults are unique in that they often have other chronic conditions, making their management of diabetes more complicated than those with just the single diagnosis,” said Gorman. “This support group is targeted toward those who are older.”

Giffune, who has been a dietitian for more than 33 years, echoed those sentiments.

“I believe that it is helpful to be continually updated on diabetes in all aspects – medication, nutrition, monitoring, exercise, problem solving, and it is helpful to have a monthly group to provide this information,” said Giffune. 

Giffune noted that she will encourage attendees to ask questions in the comfortable setting.

“The support group will offer an opportunity to form a community of those dealing with diabetes,” said Giffune.

Giffune will structure the 90-minute sessions with a “What’s New in Diabetes” segment, followed by time for participants to offer their latest news, followed by the topic of the month, and ending with a question and answer time.

“I like people to understand the information I provide,” said Giffune. “I don’t want them to feel as though it is super complicated, requiring research and more learning. They should be able to walk out the door and use the new information right away.”

Gorman concurred.

“Living with diabetes can be challenging,” said Gorman. “For those who are newly diagnosed, the list of do’s and don’ts can seem overwhelming.”

Gorman added that for persons who are pre-diabetic, strategies for increasing their optimal health are within reach if they are aware of them.

“Jennifer Giffune has run diabetic support groups in the past and has years of experience in the field,” said Gorman. “Participants can learn from Jen and from each other in a supportive and informal atmosphere.”

For more information or to sign up for the support group, contact Council on Aging program director, Mary Lou Niedzielski, at (413) 562-6435.

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