You probably met with a diabetes educator when you (or your child) were first diagnosed, learning what you needed to know about type 1 diabetes and how to live well with this brand new condition. Your educator may have worked with you to develop a daily diabetes management plan, teaching you about taking insulin and the various tools and techniques available for doing so, as well as providing information on various topics and practical aspects of living with diabetes. Your diabetes educator probably also helped you find answers to a wide array of diabetes-related questions.
But did you know that diabetes educators can also support you and help you improve your care in multiple ways, even years after diagnosis? At least annually, people with T1D can benefit from meeting with a diabetes educator to check in, discuss what is new, ask questions, seek guidance about what is or isn’t working in the diabetes management plan and, if needed, gather resources for further knowledge and support.
When Diabetes Educators Can Help
Diabetes educators are health care professionals who represent different disciplines including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise specialists, and several others. They are available to listen, teach, solve problems, make suggestions, offer support and share resources. Diabetes educators can help you navigate your own self-care at the following times:
– When new physical or lifestyle changes or issues come up that make diabetes management more challenging, a diabetes educator can provide valuable support and expertise. New schools, puberty, menopause, pregnancy, repeated highs and lows, the onset of complications such as nerve, kidney or eye disease, or even a bout with depression, anxiety, or diabetes distress (burnout) — all are just a few examples of times when you may wish to seek out their support.
– During transitions in diabetes care, such as moving from pediatric to adult care, after a hospitalization, moving to a different location or country, moving from adult to elder care, or during a major illness.
– When you’re overwhelmed with online information and advice. There are volumes of information available on the Internet regarding T1D. While it’s possible to learn from and compare notes with those living with T1D through social networks like Glu, an advantage to also working with a diabetes educator is that you can confirm what you learn through social media and Internet sources and find out how or if it applies to you.
How to Find a Diabetes Educator
With nearly 15,000 members, The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has a vast network of practitioners working either directly or indirectly with people who have, are affected by, or are at risk for diabetes to improve life with diabetes. AADE is a multi-disciplinary, professional membership organization dedicated to improving the knowledge and care of people with diabetes and their loved ones through the delivery of innovative education, management and ongoing support.
Ask your endocrinologist or primary care provider for a referral to a diabetes educator, or use this resource at the AADE website. You will want to find a diabetes educator who specializes and has experience in T1D. This person will be a good resource when getting started on an insulin pump and/or a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), as well as when reviewing data from these devices and troubleshooting day-to-day challenges.
Finding a diabetes educator whom you can continue to learn from and gain support over the years can help you stay informed, feel encouraged, and live well with diabetes. Start by letting your diabetes educator know what you need and that you want to work as partners.
– Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE
Jane is the Program Director/Lecturer for the online Master of Science in Diabetes Education and Management Program at Teachers College Columbia University. Jane is a nurse and certified diabetes educator and has been a member of AADE since 1995. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1975.
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