Staying Healthy with Diabetes: A Nurse's Advice

So you've checked out my services for you (if not, give them a read here), but what can you do for yourself? If you don't have the time, money, or interest to contact Teaching for Health about your diabetes education needs, not to worry! Here are three key ways that you can take the work I do and adapt it to your needs, holding your own in your battle with diabetes. 


Practice Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME)

"Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime." 

So is the essence of the DSME method - that is, minimizing the complications from diabetes and improving your quality of life through a customized, easy-to-understand program. Whether you seek help in doing so from Teaching for Health, another trusted professional, or even Google and your own store of diabetes knowledge, having a basic guidebook of what to do, what not to do, and when (or when not) to do it will help you stay ahead of your diabetes.

The most thorough ideological guidebook entails three specific points:

  1. Taking it upon yourself to learn the critical nature of diabetes - how the disease works, its primary symptoms and dangers, and why your insulin level matters so much.
  2. Setting reasonable goals for yourself - these might include recording the foods you eat in a day, limiting your sugar intake to a specific amount, measuring your blood sugar levels at certain increments of time, or even maintaining a schedule for visits to your physician.
  3. Most importantly, recognizing that you can get through it and giving yourself a pat on the back every day when you do.

By adopting the strategies listed above, you capitalize on accessible self-care behaviors, practicing them until they eventually become routine - a behavioral approach supported by evidence-based behavioral research.

In this way, people with or at risk for diabetes gain the confidence and skills necessary to successfully manage the disease and its related conditions, without so much pressure or pain from their doctor.


Take A Holistic Approach

The healthcare system is no doubt a complex maze, difficult for patients to navigate or fully understand. And often, unfortunately, medical professionals don't make it much easier with their doctor-speak and tendency to order prescription after prescription without recommending at-home remedies first. Luckily, you can learn to advocate for yourself as a patient who's in the know - and once you do, trust me, the maze will become a lot more manageable.

In order to become your own best advocate, you must foremost recognize that the patient - you - is at the center of the diabetes mission. In other words, think of yourself and your healthcare providers - doctors, nurses, their assistants, even front-desk staff - as a team, all striving to achieve the common goal that is bettering you health. By taking this holistic approach you will demonstrate to the rest of your healthcare team that you take yourself seriously, and therefore they should too. No half-cooked solutions or over-medications allowed!

As team captain, this means taking on a few specific responsibilities that will enable you to work with your healthcare team:

  • Learn how to ask the right questions - which sometimes starts with asking any question at all! If you're unsure of some of the vocabulary used by your doctor, as him/her the meaning of the words. If your doctor is speaking too quickly, ask him/her to slow down. If your doctor is glossing over your diagnosis or assuming that you know something that you don't, stop him/her in his tracks and ask him to backtrack and be more transparent.
  • Don't be afraid - sometimes medical professionals need to be reminded that patients aren't expected to know everything.
  • Take it upon yourself to acquire what's lacking, and don't let it go. If you feel your doctors' appointment didn't get you anywhere, call back with specific questions or make a follow-up appointment. If you need help understanding test/lab results, ask someone at your healthcare center or ask a trusted friend to help.

As you become more comfortable with speaking up, asking questions, and demanding (kindly, always) the care you deserve, you will not only get better solutions but will feel a confidence to carry you through any further problems that may arise.


Get Involved in the Community

I've pointed out a lot that you can do for yourself - but remember, there's no shame in finding someone to help you do so! Chances are, as for anyone in life regardless of their health, that your diabetes will be more difficult to manage without some sort of support system. Many people, unfortunately, try to climb up the self-care ladder entirely on their own, but end up feeling so overwhelmed by all the responsibility and new information that the effort is fruitless. They end up falling back into the same unhealthy routines at home, relying on hard-to-pronounce medications and dreading their next doctor's visit for fear of even more medications.

Of course, this is understandable - but luckily, it's also solvable! Here's a list of a few places you can start when you're in need of a little TLC:

  •  A family member who can potentially help you with your daily care routine
  • A friend you can call in a time of medical need, even if it just means cracking some jokes or indulging in some good conversation
  • A local health center you can consult for general knowledge and advice, or well-informed people who can help you learn about your disease or better communicate with your doctor

Finding the right support system for you can make all the difference to minimizing, and even avoiding, a number of the complications that can result from diabetes.