Tips for Caring for Diabetic Patients
November 29 2022
- What is Diabetes Plus 7 Care Tips that Improve the Health and Life Quality of Diabetics
- What is Diabetes Plus the Main Types
- Encourage a Healthy Diet
- Encourage Staying Active
- Encourage Regular Testing and Taking of Medication
- Reduce Stress
- Monitor the Effects of Illness and Hormone Changes
- Foot, Teeth, and Eye Care
What is Diabetes Plus 7 Care Tips that Improve the Health and Life Quality of Diabetics
Diabetes changes a lot about a person’s life. Good management requires awareness. It’s all about knowing what makes a person’s blood sugar levels rise and fall, plus controlling the day-to-day factors that cause those changes.
If you care for someone with diabetes, it’s important to know those factors and help them manage their blood sugar levels. You’ll also want to provide encouragement as dealing with these changes can be frustrating.
To help you provide great care for diabetic patients, here are the basics of diabetes, plus ways you can help them live a healthier, happier life.
What is Diabetes Plus the Main Types
1 Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. In healthy individuals, your body breaks down most of the food you eat into sugar, known as glucose, and releases it into your bloodstream. When your sugar goes up, your brain signals your pancreas to release insulin, which acts like a key to allow the blood sugar into your body’s cells to use as energy. For those with diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should. Over time, when too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream, it causes serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
More than 1 in 3 adults in the United States have prediabetes, and more than 8 in 10 of them don’t know they have it. Prediabetes causes higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. It does raise your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1: This is when your body does not make insulin. It is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1. Symptoms develop quickly and it is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. Type 1 diabetics need to take insulin every day to survive.
- Type 2: This is when your body doesn’t use insulin well or can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90 to 95 percent of those with diabetes have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults. You may not notice symptoms, so it is important for a person who is at risk to get tested. Fortunately, type 2 can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active.
- Gestational Diabetes: This type develops in pregnant people who have never had diabetes. Most of the time it goes away after the baby is born, however, the pregnant person has a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes and their baby is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen and develop type 2 later in life as well.
Encourage a Healthy Diet
2 Food is a huge factor in changing blood sugar levels. Knowing how foods affect an individual with diabetes can help you combat wildly changing glucose levels and levels that are too high. It’s not only the types of foods that a patient eats, but the combination of food as well.
It’s all about portion size and carbohydrate counting. Carbs have the biggest impact on blood sugar levels. For patients who take mealtime insulin, it’s important to know the amount of carbs in their food so they get the proper dose of insulin.
Diabetic patients should work closely with their medical team to create a meal plan that works for them. Some general guidelines include:
- Choosing foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt
- Eating foods with more fiber
- Eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains
- Eating low-fat or skim milk and cheese
- Drinking water instead of juice or soda
- Eating proper portion sizes by filling half of the plate with fruits and veggies, one quarter with lean protein, and one quarter with whole grains
- Being careful about their alcohol consumption (the liver releases stored sugar to counteract falling glucose levels, however, if it is busy metabolizing alcohol, it may not boost glucose levels when needed)
Encourage Staying Active
3 Physical activity is an important part of managing diabetes. When you exercise, your muscles use the sugar (glucose) for energy. So regular exercise can help a patient’s body use insulin more effectively.
A patient should work closely with their care team to create an exercise plan that works for them. Generally, an adult patient should get about 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, breaking it down into about 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. If the patient has been inactive for a long time, the doctor may prescribe a balance of aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises. Patients should also check their blood sugar level before, during, and after exercising, especially if they are on insulin or other medications that lower blood sugar levels. They should also stay hydrated and drink plenty of water while exercising, plus have a snack on hand or glucose tablets if blood sugar levels drop too low.
Encourage Regular Testing and Taking of Medication
4 Testing is how diabetics keep track of their blood sugar levels. Regular testing allows them to figure out what foods and activities cause their blood sugar levels to rise and fall. Knowing these things can help them better manage their diabetes with insulin and other medication. Encourage them to:
- Test routinely
- Track their levels, especially if they are newly diagnosed
- Store their insulin properly (insulin is sensitive to extremes in temperature and should not be kept past its expiration date)
- Learn what over-the-counter drugs may interact with their glucose levels or diabetic medications
- Take their medications as directed
5 Prolonged stress causes your body to release certain hormones which can cause a rise in blood sugar or glucose levels. Also, stress can make it more difficult to closely follow a diabetic management routine. To counteract stress, patients should:
- Look for patterns by logging their stress levels every time they log their glucose levels
- Take control by prioritizing their mental health and practicing relaxation techniques, exercising, and setting limits
- Reach out for help when needed by talking to a therapist to identify stressors, solve stressful problems, and learning new coping skills
Monitor the Effects of Illness and Hormone Changes
6 When you are sick, your body produces stress-related hormones to help fight the illness, however, like situational stress, it can also raise blood sugar levels. Illness can also cause a change in appetite and decrease activity levels that can complicate diabetes management.
Patients should work with their care team to create a sick day plan. Instructions should include what medications to take, how often to measure blood sugar and urine ketone levels, how to adjust medications, and when to call their doctor. They should also stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and stick to their meal plan if possible.
Foot, Teeth, and Eye Care
7 Finally, diabetics should have routine eye exams to watch for diabetic eye disease and to practice proper foot and teeth care.
Diabetics are prone to infections on their feet. Proper foot care includes doing a foot exam every day to look for cuts, blisters, sores, swelling, dry skin, and cracks. A nail file should be used instead of clippers and feet should be moisturized daily with cream.
Diabetics are prone to gum disease, infections, and teeth loss. For teeth care, patients should see a dentist every 6 months. They should also practice good oral hygiene by brushing at least twice a day for three minutes each, flossing once a day, and rinsing with water. Diabetics should watch for signs of red, swollen, or bleeding gums as well as bad breath or migrating teeth.