The Care Companions program is taking place in San Antonio, TX under WellMed Medical Group, an organization recognized as an innovative leader in senior healthcare for 20 years. The American Academy of Family Physicians’ National Research Network and L.A. Net are providing the research and evaluation support for the program. For program design, WellMed is collaborating with Latino Health Access of Santa Ana, California to help design the implementation of the Diabetes 101 classes, mentor training, and ongoing educational support.
The patients that are participating in the Care Companions program represent 15 different primary care clinics in San Antonio and surrounding areas. These patients are primarily English speaking, represent a variety of ethnicities (the majority being Hispanic and Caucasian) and socio-economic status classes. Patients involved in the program are defined as a “senior” population and range in age from 50 – 80+ years.
Through the help of a decision support system that resides in the clinic in addition to a chronic care health model lead by “health coaches”, eligible patients with diabetes are identified and referred to an 8-week “Diabetes 101” course. This 8-week course is lead by certified diabetic educators and teaches the participants the basics of diabetes management including but not limited to blood sugar monitoring, healthy coping, nutrition, etc. Through these 8 week classes, the diabetic educator leading the class identifies eligible “mentors” or peer supporters and “mentees”.
The individuals who agree to become mentors go through a structured, four day, 16-hour training to teach them how to mentor other patients with diabetes. The focus of this training is to help participants develop the interpersonal skills to help others with the management of diabetes. Mentors are then paired up with those individuals who agree to become mentees from the Diabetes 101 classes at a “reunion” session. Monthly support meetings take place in the mentor and mentee’s home clinic where they are able to meet in person to work one-on-one while also receiving continuing diabetes education through interactive presentations lead by diabetic health educators and relevant guest speakers. The staff at WellMed has found that when group meetings are paired with relevant and interesting topic presentations that more participants are likely to attend and participate. All other contacts that take place outside this monthly meeting usually occur through telephone contacts.
We have found that through our Diabetes 101 classes and mentor training, mentors have become empowered to share their new-found knowledge with friends, family members, and the community in addition to their mentees. Consequently, the staff has had the mentors complete contact logs on everyone they mentor, even if they are not a mentee. One major challenge the project is currently undergoing is lack of WellMed mentees, due to the difficulty of keeping the senior population committed to monthly meetings and ongoing support. We are currently analyzing the electronic health records of participants who have gone through the Diabetes 101 class to identify and target those who may need support from a mentor.
Visit the Peers for Progress website for further information and resources.