When receiving treatment for diabetes there will be many decisions to make about your care. While you could leave these choices up to your doctor, the only way to be sure that your treatment plan fits with your lifestyle is to become an active participant.
Assemble a Winning Team
One of the most important elements of a successful diabetes care program is a health care provider. Whether you work with one professional or a team of professionals, you should feel your health care provider is willing to listen to your concerns and take the time to make sure you understand how best to manage diabetes. Your doctor may be an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in dealing with hormonal problems. (Insulin is a hormone.) A child or adolescent with diabetes may be cared for by a pediatric endocrinologist who has special knowledge about diabetes in children. If an endocrinologist is not available in your area, choose a doctor who has experience in diabetes care. Ultimately, a physician's most important qualification is that you feel comfortable with him or her. Ideally, a multidisciplinary team is available to you. The team may include a doctor, nurse educator, registered dietitian, social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist, and exercise physiologist. But all of these specialists may not be available in the area in which you live or the health care setting you use. You and your doctor may need to put together your own team:
- Ask your doctor to refer you to a diabetes educator or dietitian. The American Association of Diabetes Educators can also provide you with names; phone them at 1-800-338-3633, or visit their Web site at www.aadenet.org and click on "Find an Educator."
- Look for professionals with the credential C.D.E, which stands for Certified Diabetes Educator. This abbreviation assures you this licensed provider has met certain education requirements and has passed an examination that verifies knowledge and expertise in diabetes.
Finding a health care professional who is sensitive to your needs and able to provide the support you need is critical to your diabetes care. Communication is vital: Are you comfortable talking with this person? Is he or she readily available and willing to take time to answer questions or help with medication adjustments? You may need to talk with a few health care professionals before you find one who is right for you.
Take the HelmThe formation of diabetes care teams marks a shift in diabetes care. Traditionally, a doctor would tell you what to do, and you were expected to go home and do it. But with health care systems changing, people must learn to be advocates for themselves. The doctor is no longer the center of the team. You're in the driver's seat; it is up to you to steer the direction of your care. If you're unsure how to be an advocate for yourself, here are a few suggestions:
- Don't settle for someone who will not work with you to keep diabetes under optimal control. If a health care provider is too busy to spend time with you or seems unaware of how best to help you, find someone else. Even if you've been seeing one physician for a long time, do not feel compelled to stick with him or her. Place your needs first. A physician who is unable to help you because of patient load or lack of experience with diabetes is not the best physician for you, no matter how long you've known him or her.
- Ask your physician to refer you to a diabetes educator, registered dietitian, and/or psychologist if you have difficulty in areas where these professionals can help. And don't feel put out or dismissed if your physician refers you to one of these professionals without your asking. A physician who recognizes that others can help where he or she cannot is putting your needs first.
- Tell your health care provider what part of your management program you can do easily and where you have difficulty. Together you can come up with ideas to smooth the rocky areas and reinforce the already-strong areas.
- Stay abreast of new research and developments in diabetes care. Ask your health care provider if new products might benefit you.
- Demand frequent communication with your health care provider so he or she can carefully monitor your blood glucose levels.
Be a SpongeSoak up as much diabetes information as you can hold! The more you know about diabetes, the better prepared you will be to handle problems if they crop up. Some people attempt to cope by denying their diabetes and its harmful effects. But this head-in-the-sand approach leaves them unable to deal with the trials and frustrations of diabetes management. In most cases, you are the only one who can make decisions about your care on a daily basis. Your doctor, diabetes educator, or registered dietitian cannot be with you 24 hours a day. The more you know, the better the decisions you will make.
- Read as much as you can about diabetes. Ask your educator for materials and sources. Many publications about diabetes are available at your local library. You can also subscribe to newsletters published by manufacturers of glucose meters.
- Join the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and/or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRFI). For information about joining the ADA, call 1-800-DIABETES, or visit the Web site at www.diabetes.org. For information about joining the JDRFI, call 1-800-533-CURE, or visit the Web site at www.jdrf.org.
- Stay abreast of new research technologies through publications and your diabetes educator.
- Understand the importance of controlling diabetes. If you are unclear about any aspect, talk to your health care professional.
- Attend classes or seminars on diabetes given by a local hospital or the ADA or JDRFI.
- Talk to others about how they care for their diabetes. Find out what works for them. You can do this by joining a support group run by the ADA, JDRFI, or a local hospital.
- Ask questions of knowledgeable people: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, registered dietitians, and so on.
Be PreparedDiabetes care is one area of your life where you really don't want surprises. So use a bit of forethought to help you stay in control.
- Inventory necessary supplies regularly, perhaps on the first of each month. Don't let supplies get too low. You don't want to run out when pharmacies are closed or find that your pharmacy must special order your prescription.
- If you take insulin, keep at least one extra bottle of each kind of insulin on hand. If you break a bottle or something else happens to it, your backup will save you an urgent trip to the pharmacy.
- Check your meter case regularly to make sure you have enough strips and lancets. Make sure the meter's code matches the code on the bottle of strips. Keep an extra supply of batteries on hand if your meter is battery-operated. Don't forget to check your second meter, too, if you have one that you keep at work or carry with you!
- When you travel, pack twice as many supplies as you think you will use.
- If you are hiking, boating, or are otherwise away from people and food, pack far more food and glucose tablets than you think you will need, especially if you take insulin. Also pack your Glucagon kit and show someone how to use it.
- Always have some readily available form of sugar with you. Keep extra crackers and juice boxes in the car to treat hypoglycemia, in addition to water or a sugar-free beverage.
- Always wear a medical ID.
- If you use an insulin pump, always be prepared to give yourself an injection of long-acting insulin in case of a problem with the pump.
While taking charge of diabetes care is vitally important, you must also realize that you cannot handle this enormous responsibility all on your own. In the next section, you will learn how to get your friends and family involved in your diabetes care. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.