How to Fit Diabetes Management Into Your Lifestyle

By: Priscilla Thomas

Growing up, my siblings and I spent our summers in North Carolina with friends and family. As I got older, I started to realize that many of our relatives suffered from the complications of diabetes such as blindness, kidney disease, and heart disease. I often wondered if they had access to the resources they needed —could it have made a difference in managing their diabetes and preventing complications?

Diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services are one of the resources that can help improve your diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol; lower the risk of diabetes complications; reduce hospital admissions; and improve your overall health. 

Whether you are newly diagnosed or have had diabetes for years, DSMES services can help you find ways to manage your diabetes that fit your lifestyle. 

Although we know the benefits of DSMES, the number of people with diabetes who access these services is very low (only half of adults with diabetes). TLC-MD’s goal is to increase awareness and reduce barriers so that people with diabetes have easier access to these services. DSMES is covered by many insurance plans. If the cost of the services is a concern for you, there are also free or low-cost resources available. To get started with DSMES, ask your healthcare provider for a referral

There are four key times to ask for a referral to DSMES services:

  • When you are first diagnosed with diabetes.
  • During your annual checkup or if your lab results or other health goals are not within range. 
  • When you have a new concern, new medications, or develop a new complication such as neuropathy (numbness in your feet), heart disease, or kidney disease. 
  • When you have a hospital admission or Emergency Department visit.

When you participate in DSMES services, you will:

  • Work with a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (DCES) to set and track goals that will work for you. 
  • Improve or learn new knowledge, skills, and tools to help you feel more confident with managing your diabetes.
  • Develop and practice problem-solving skills to fit diabetes care into your daily routine. 
  • Learn how to get the support you need from your family, friends, and healthcare team.

DSMES services focus on seven key self-care behaviors:

  • Healthy Coping: Find the support you need and identify ways to reduce stress.
  • Healthy Eating: Learn the common myths about healthy eating and how to create an eating plan that meets your needs. 
  • Being Active: Discover how to include activities you enjoy in your daily routine.
  • Taking Medication: Learn tips to take medications as prescribed and how medications work together.
  • Monitoring: Know if you are meeting your treatment goals and if adjustments may be needed.
  • Problem-Solving: Identify problems, find solutions, and develop a plan to take action.
  • Reducing Risks: Take steps to lower your risk of developing complications.

No matter how long you’ve had diabetes, diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) can help you fit diabetes management into your lifestyle and make a difference in your overall health. Remember: There are four key times to ask for a referral; DSMES can help you gain the knowledge, skills, tools, and support you need to manage your diabetes; and a diabetes care and education specialist will help you develop or improve seven key self-care behaviors. Sometimes getting access to DSMES services can be challenging. You don’t have to do this alone. TLC-MD is here to support you and connect you to the services you need so you can thrive with your diabetes.

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