By Joan Bardsley, MBA, BSN, RN, CDE
American Association of Diabetes Educators
If you have recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or have been living with it for a while, you know how challenging it can be to manage your disease.
At times, it may seem overwhelming to do all of the things you have to do to take care of yourself.
A diabetes educator can help. As a member of your healthcare team, a diabetes educator – who may also be a nurse, pharmacist, dietitian, or a specialist in another discipline such as physical therapy or social work – will work with you to develop a plan to stay healthy, and give you the tools and ongoing support to make that plan a regular part of your life.
Diabetes may not have a cure, but you can manage it and live well; and diabetes education helps people learn how to manage their disease by focusing on seven self-care behaviors:
Monitoring your blood sugar
The goal of diabetes education and support is to show you how to practice these behaviors every day, which will help you lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Most people with diabetes know self-management is important, and there is overwhelming research to show that those who have had diabetes education have better blood sugar control. Good diabetes educators work with each person to design a specific plan that includes tools and support tailored to that person.
How Do You Get Diabetes Education?
Diabetes education is often prescribed by a primary care provider, who writes a referral. Diabetes education programs, sometimes called diabetes self-management training, are found in a variety of places – hospital outpatient facilities, clinics, doctors’ offices, to name a few – and staffed by diabetes educators. These specialists focus on all aspects of diabetes care, and are also skilled in counseling, education, and communication.
What Do Diabetes Educators Do?
Diabetes educators teach people with diabetes how to manage their diabetes and live their healthiest life. Diabetes educators ask many questions to better understand your goals and challenges, and then, together, they develop a diabetes self-management plan with you that works for you.
For example, diabetes educators can help you understand how certain favorite foods affect your blood sugar, how to fit a prescribed medication into a daily routine, and how to lower the risk of diabetes-related complications. Your plan can include advice on everything from getting through the excesses of holiday dinners and parties to coping with the challenges of managing diabetes while traveling for work or fun.
Diabetes education is not a lecture on what not to do. It’s real-life guidance, coaching, and support proven to help you understand exactly how to best manage your diabetes, and to feel less alone while you’re doing it.
Diabetes education takes place in group or one-on-one settings, and in formal or informal formats.
Does Insurance Pay for Diabetes Educators?
Diabetes education is a recognized part of diabetes care and is covered by Medicare and most health insurance plans when provided by a diabetes educator within an accredited and recognized program. To find an accredited program or a certified diabetes educator near you, check out AADE’s diabetes educator database.