When you are diagnosed with diabetes, there is a lot to learn. Luckily, there are many people that can help. Building your healthcare team with the right members will ensure a healthy understanding of diabetes management. Your team members will help you learn what to eat, how to exercise, how to manage your emotions, which medicines to take and much more. Who should be in your healthcare team?
You are really the boss of your healthcare team. You make sense of the information and guidance they provide. You will be the person doing the exercise, eating the food, taking the medicine, injecting (or pumping) the insulin and more. Your team will be working to help you do these things the proper way. The benefits of a healthcare team are magnified when you are committed to learning and making the necessary changes to manage your diabetes. A good attitude goes a long way.
Family and/or Friends in Your Healthcare Team
Your friends and family can be vital to managing your diabetes. No one says you have to deal with diabetes alone. You should try to find a person or group of people that you feel comfortable talking about your diabetes with. It helps to ask one of your family members or friends to be your diabetes partner, someone you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and experiences with and whose opinion you trust. Ask for their opinion when considering changes to your diabetes management. If you are having trouble opening up and talking about your diabetes, it may be helpful to talk to a professional to get this started.
Social Worker/Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Marriage or Family Therapist
People handle their initial diagnosis of diabetes differently. Some deny or ignore it, some intend to deal with it but don't quite figure out how to do this and some take it seriously and work well with all the members of the healthcare team. Mental health professionals help with the personal and emotional side of living with diabetes. A social worker can help you find the medical or financial resources you need. Therapist can help you solve problems in your family, marriage, or relationships. They can help you get in the right frame of mind to meet your new challenge head on.
Physicians in Your Healthcare Team
- Your Primary Care Physician - Your primary care physician will still be the person you see when you are sick and for general medical checkups. Once you are diagnosed, you should discuss diabetes with your primary doctor. He/She will be able to refer you to specialists in your community for different aspects of your management. Some insurance plans require your primary doctors' referral for visits to the other health professionals on your team. You will need various blood tests, such as for cholesterol levels and for A1c that shows how well you are controlling your blood sugar. Your physician or another doctor on your team will guide you on this.
- Endocrinologist - an endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in treating diabetes and other diseases of the endocrine system. The pancreas is part of the endocrine system, and insulin is one of the key hormones the body needs to function properly.
- Eye Doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) - Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the eyes. This is called retinopathy. See your eye doctor at least once a year. The checkups will help you detect diabetic eye disease early when it can be treated with better results. Be sure your eye doctor is familiar with how to spot and treat diabetic eye disease.
- Cardiologist -a cardiologist is certified to treat problems of the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and arteries. Congestive heart failure is a common heart problem often found in Type 2 diabetes. Management of blood pressure and cholesterol levels is important for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.
- Podiatrist - People with diabetes whose glucose has been elevated may develop poor blood circulation and nerve damage in their feet and lower legs. This is called neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy often starts in the feet because these nerves are the longest in the body. A podiatrist can help with early recognition of foot problems such as sores, infections, and callouses, and management.
- Nephrologist - A nephrologist is a physician who diagnoses and manages kidney disease and kidney function. The risk of developing CKD increases with the length of time a person has diabetes. Blood and urine tests can help in the early detection of kidney disease.
Physician Assistants or Nurse Practitioners in Your Healthcare Team
Physician assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) work with your physician or endocrinologist. They are trained to provide patient evaluation, education, and health care services. Yours should be familiar with diabetes and its treatments.
Nurse Educators in Your Healthcare Team
A nurse educator is a Registered Nurse, usually with a CDE, that indicates certification in caring for and teaching people with diabetes. Nurse educators often help you learn the day-to-day aspects of diabetes self-care, such as how to check your blood sugar and how to take medications and insulin.
Registered Dietitians in Your Healthcare Team
Your dietitian, also usually a CDE, helps you figure out what to eat based on your desired weight, lifestyle and other health goals (such as lowering blood fat levels or blood pressure). They can help you read food labels and plan meals.
Pharmacists in Your Healthcare Team
If possible, try to all fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. Pharmacist are trained to deal with and understand the interactions between prescription and over-the-counter medications better than anyone else on your team. Try to get to know your pharmacist and keep a running dialogue. If they know all the medications you are taking, they can better spot possibly dangerous combinations or advise certain over-the-counter treatments.
Exercise Physiologists in Your Healthcare Team
Exercise is important to everyone, but especially someone with diabetes. Exercise can help you maintain more normal blood sugars, help your body better use natural or injected insulin, and help in overall weight control. It can also improve your blood fat levels, reduce stress, and improve your overall fitness level.
Dentists in Your Healthcare Team
Gum disease is a source of inflammation in the body and carries a great risk to overall health. People with diabetes are at somewhat greater risk for gum disease. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes and visit your dentist every six months or as directed.
Finding a properly trained caregiver for someone with diabetes is an important addition to a diabetes healthcare team. It’s important to find someone who is dedicated to helping monitor diabetes management and has prior experience in all the important aspects of monitoring, including: spotting symptoms of highs and lows, performing various test, and proper nutrition. They should have direct contact with the physician and other members of the team as well.