Last week we discussed the types of diabetes, symptoms, screenings, and lowering your risk. This week we will discuss resources to help you if you are diagnosed with diabetes. Amber Albrecht, registered nurse and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) at Cavalier County Memorial Hospital in Langdon works closely with Dietician Kaci Sharp to teach and assist patients with diabetes.
One in four people with diabetes doesn’t know that they have it, so it may come as a surprise if it is diagnosed during a regular checkup.
“If diabetes is prevalent in a person’s family, I find that they are less surprised when they are diagnosed,” said Albrecht. “However, it does seem like more people are diagnosed with either pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes at a routine physical and are not usually expecting it. In the case of type 1 diabetes, I would say it is more often a surprise since there are fewer warning signs before a person becomes ill and is diagnosed.”
Albrecht and Sharp see both new and existing patients on an individual basis. If patients are newly diagnosed, they teach them what diabetes is, treatment goals and strategies. Diabetes is always changing, so for those with existing diabetes they may need a simple refresher concerning instruction on starting new medications, lifestyle changes, learning about new technologies, insulin pump management or they are having trouble meeting their goals and need some new ideas. There are also a number of different types of diabetes, and their approach is tailored to the patient.
“Each patient’s 'program' is customized to them and their needs at the present time,” said Albrecht. “With each different type of diabetes and depending on what stage of the disease or what stage of life the patient is in, the topics of focus will change.”
The frequency and number of meetings will be scheduled according to what the patient needs or wants. Some patients may be seen once or twice at the beginning of their diagnosis until they feel they have the hang of it, while others come routinely every few months or every year. Some come to learn specifically about a new medication they’ve been prescribed or to learn about new technologies available like insulin pumps.
The fundamentals of managing diabetes are monitoring your blood glucose levels, managing your blood pressure and cholesterol, stop smoking if you smoke, and making physical activity part of your daily routine. Following a healthy meal plan by choosing fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, chicken or turkey without the skin, fish, lean meats, nonfat or low-fat milk and cheese, and foods in general that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt is also helpful. Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. The National Institute of Health has many articles on diabetes at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/.
Sometimes a patient may seem to be doing everything right but still cannot reach their goals.
“One of the things we can offer now is a professional CGM study,” said Albrecht. “For this, a patient wears a small device for 1-2 weeks that is constantly checking their blood sugars every few minutes. At the end of that time they return the device and their provider and I are able to download the data to get a picture of what the numbers are doing all day and night.” This is very helpful for both the patient and medical team.
For Albrecht, no matter what type of diabetes a patient has, what stage of the disease they are in, or what new technologies become available, the main idea remains the same: “My goal, within reason, is to make diabetes fit into a person’s life, not fit the person’s life around their diabetes.”