Contributor: Gina Gavlak, RN, BSN
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As a nurse I often hear patients say, “I know what needs to be done, I just don’t know how to do it,” or “I won’t be able to do it.” The “it” is behavior change – a major part of controlling diabetes.
There are specific behaviors that result in good blood sugar control, reduce complications and improve quality of life, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These behaviors include:
- Healthy eating
- Physical activity
- Monitoring blood sugar
- Taking medications as prescribed
- Good problem-solving skills
- Healthy coping skills
- Risk-reduction behaviors
If you’re asking, “How do I do it?” let’s get started!
How to create a solid diabetes plan
When creating a plan to address diabetes, ask yourself first: Do I have a game plan? Is it the right plan for my unique needs? Does it include things I like? Here are four next steps.
- Write your plan down. Noting it on paper will help you clarify your plan. You also want to put it somewhere visible as a reminder.
- Set the right goals. Before creating a plan, you have to decide what you want to accomplish. Make goals specific and something you can do. A goal of better blood sugar control should include specific steps to get you there – such as meeting with a dietitian to learn about carbohydrates or walking 30 minutes five days a week. When you accomplish a goal, reward yourself (with something other than food).
- Build a support system. Not only do you need the right health care providers on your team (more on this to come), but all teams need fans. This is where your family members, friends, co-workers and others come in. They are an equally important part of your team. Surround yourself with people who will motivate, encourage and want to help you succeed. Your health care providers are also part of your support system.
- Be actively involved. You are the most important person on the team and the expert of your life. You know what is working and what’s not, and the reasons why. Your input is needed to create the right plan for you. If your plan isn’t working, if you don’t understand something or if you can’t – or won’t – do something, share this with your team. Keep communication open, and make decisions together.
Be sure your diabetes team has all the right players
Diabetes management and sports share similarities. On the court, a basketball team has five players. Each player has a unique role – a specialty – that contributes to the success of the team. The team works together, supports and develops strategies to accomplish their goals. Along the way, changes are made if goals aren’t being reached. The team works when the right players are in the right positions. If one is missing, or not playing a position where his strength lies, the team isn’t as strong and the results not as favorable.
A strong diabetes team includes a minimum of five to six people – the person with diabetes, primary care physician, dietitian, nurse educator and ophthalmologist (eye doctor). For many, it also includes an endocrinologist, a doctor specializing in diabetes.
You and your PCP are the core of the team. Other team members are added as needed – such as a podiatrist, psychologist and cardiologist. A team approach improves diabetes management because each provider works with you on areas they have received extensive training in. If you need to learn about label reading, or anything food related, meeting with a dietitian makes the most sense because nutrition is her area of expertise.
Knowledge truly is power
People with diabetes are responsible for making 90 to 95 percent of decisions regarding their diabetes care. That’s a lot of responsibility!
Diabetes self-management is a continuous learning process. Your body’s needs change, as do medications and technologies (blood sugar meters, insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors). Follow these steps:
- Apply what you learned
- Evaluate effectiveness
- Make changes as needed
Your team is there to teach you everything you need to know to reach your goals.
As someone with diabetes, I know it’s a lot of work, but having a plan that helps you achieve your goals and prevent those horrible complications is definitely worth the time and effort. The first step is getting started. You can do it!
Gina Gavlak, RN, BSN is a Diabetes Program Development Coordinator at Lakewood Hospital.