The president of an under-utilized support group wants to remind diabetes patients in the Brandon area that they’re there to help.
Duncan Kellie joined the Brandon and District Diabetes Peer Support after he was diagnosed with the disease about 20 years ago. The 78-year-old, who took over as president three years ago, says the information and experience-sharing organization’s membership has fallen to about a dozen people.
Considering that diabetes affects more than 120,000 Manitobans, he knows that more people in the area can benefit from the services the support group provides.
“We’re open to anybody with any type of diabetes,” Kellie told the Westman Journal. “We try to get guest speakers to teach us about how to live with diabetes. Sometimes, if there’s a special deal (event) going on in town, we’ll talk about it. If there’s a diabetes-related event on in town, we’ll discuss it.”
The group meets at 2 p.m. every third Monday of the month from September until June. The meetings take place in The Town Centre at 800 Rosser Avenue in Brandon and generally last no longer than an hour and a half.
“If I get a name and a phone number of someone – we don’t even need to know where they live – I try to phone them the day before every meeting to let everyone know,” said Kellie, who suffers from diabetes himself, but has it under control and does not require medication.
John LoRegio is the Diabetes Canada branch coordinator in Brandon. He says there are numerous benefits to participating in a peer support group, especially for patients who have just been diagnosed with the disease.
“People with Type I or Type II diabetes can share their personal experiences that others can relate to and get advice from people who have been there and done that,” he said. “It gives them a chance to talk with other people and see how they’re handling their situation. It’s also a chance for professionals to share information.”
About 123,000 people are living with diabetes in Manitoba, while another 200,000 have pre-diabetes. LoRegio says those 323,000 people represent about 30 per cent of the provincial population. This does not include the family and friends of diabetes patients also impacted by the disease through their relationship with a patient.
However, LoRegio says as valuable as it is, the peer support group may not be for everyone.
“It’s really dependent on the individual,” he said. “Everybody handles things differently. Some folks in certain situations would never join a support group because they prefer to keep to themselves.”
Nevertheless, the support group – which is not affiliated with Diabetes Canada – is a valuable resource for patients who are interested in sharing their experience and learning from others in the same predicament, he said.
“If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to socialize,” he said. “There are people to socialize with who know about certain situations and know why you’re doing this or not doing that.”
The 2016-2017 year is almost complete. Kellie is hosting a barbecue on June 19 before the group goes on hiatus for the summer. Although the gathering represents the end of the year, Kellie said anyone interested in joining the Diabetes Peer Support Group is welcome to join them. For more information, contact Kellie at (204) 727-4165, or the Westman office of Diabetes Canada at (204) 728-2382.