Living with diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires long term support and ongoing review and management. It takes time, energy and commitment to manage your diabetes well and with the right support and information you can learn to do this.

Diabetes management is all about self management, so the person with diabetes needs to:

  • Understand their diabetes so they can make informed lifestyle and treatment choices
  • Learn to solve day to day problems that affect diabetes
  • Juggle diabetes with the demands of work/school, family and social life.

Diabetes can be managed better by

  • Making healthy food choices
  • Incorporating physical activity into daily life
  • Taking medications/insulin as prescribed
  • Monitoring your blood glucose levels and using the results to improve diabetes control
  • Taking special precautions for foot care and oral hygiene

Some situations require extra care

  • Prevent and treat high and low blood glucose levels
  • Manage your diabetes during illness
  • When travelling
  • Playing sport or exercising vigorously.

With good care people with diabetes can live a normal, active lifestyle, and reduce the risks of developing long term diabetes complications.

Your health care team

While you will manage your diabetes day by day, there will be times when you will need help from the rest of the team.  This includes your GP, diabetes educator, dietitian, endocrinologist , podiatrist, optometrist / ophthalmologist, counsellor, or exercise specialist.

A diabetes educator is a registered nurse who has additional training in caring for and teaching people with diabetes. Many hospitals and community health centres have Credentialled Diabetes Educators (CDEs) who see people one to one and conduct regular diabetes management classes.

It is important to have regular contact with your diabetes educator to monitor your progress and to keep you up to date with new developments.

The diabetes educator can help you to learn

  • What diabetes is and how it affects the body
  • How to cope with your diagnosis and make lifestyle changes
  • Learn about monitoring your blood glucose levels, the target levels to aim for, which meter is best for you
  • Learning about insulin, if you need it
  • How to recognise and treat low and high blood glucose levels
  • How to manage your diabetes when you are sick or ill
  • Keeping track of your diabetes and long term management issues
  • Travelling safely with diabetes
  • Planning for pregnancy and taking care of your diabetes during pregnancy.

How to access a diabetes educator

 Every person with diabetes should have access to a credentialed diabetes educator, at diagnosis and at times when their management changes or life stages, for example pregnancy, starting insulin.

There are several ways to find a diabetes educator

  • If you have been a recent hospital patient, contact the hospital and ask for an appointment with the diabetes educator
  • Contact your local community health centre
  • Ask your doctor to refer you to a credentialed diabetes educator as part of the GP Chronic Disease Management. You may be able to receive a rebate for this service.  Contact Medicare for further information about rebates.
  • Contact the Australian Diabetes Educators Association and ‘find a CDE' (credentialed diabetes educator)
  • Go to www.serviceseeker.com.au and look up ‘diabetes educator’ and your postcode
  • Contact Diabetes Australia – Vic on 1300 136 588 and ask to speak to a diabetes educator.

 Accredited Practicing Dietitians can help you to make positive changes to the food you eat. Every person diagnosed with diabetes should have access to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for individualised, practical advice on nutrition in the form of a sample menu plan, recipe ideas, eating out suggestions and special occasion foods.

Each individual needs an eating plan to meet their needs, which will assist with

  • Managing blood glucose levels
  • Controlling serum lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • Achieving a healthy body weight
  • Preventing short term complications (such as high or low blood glucose) and long term complications (of the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and nerves)
  • Improving overall health with optimum nutrition.

How to access a dietitian

  • Many hospitals and community health centres have dietitians who see people one to one and in group sessions.
  • If you are a recent hospital patient, contact the hospital and ask for an appointment with their dietitian
  • Contact your local government office or community health centre in your area
  • Ask your doctor to refer you to a private practising dietitian under the GP Chronic Disease Management. You may be able to receive a rebate for this service. Contact Medicare for further information about rebates
  • Contact the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) on 1800 812 942.
  • Contact Diabetes Australia - Vic on 1300 136 588 and ask to speak to a dietitian.

An exercise physiologist or physiotherapist will assess your ability to exercise and help you to make positive changes in your activity patterns. These professionals are not readily available publicly but private practitioners may be more accessible. Contact your local community health service or go to the Exercise & Sports Science Australia website to search for an Exercise Physiologist.

An endocrinologist is a doctor who specialises in diabetes and its management. Discuss referral to an endocrinologist with your GP. If you have diabetes and are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you must see an endocrinologist.

A medical eye specialist (ophthalmologist) or optometrist will check the blood vessels at the back of your eyes. You will need a referral from your doctor for an ophthalmologist.

A podiatrist will check the blood flow, nerve function and overall condition of your feet and treats foot conditions, such as ulcers, nail problems, and prescribes orthotic devices for foot deformities. Podiatrists are available at hospitals, community health services and in private practice.

Peer Support

Many people find it helpful to share their experiences with other people who have diabetes. Diabetes Australia – Vic has over 60 support and self help groups which you can join.

Find out more about Community Network support groups in Victoria

At first, learning what you need to know to manage your diabetes may seem overwhelming. But in time, and with the support of the health care team, you can become confident to self manage your diabetes and make the health care decisions that are right for you.

For more information about diabetes health professionals or managing your diabetes, contact the Diabetes Info Line on 1300 136 588.

Speaking from experience

The 'Speaking from Experience' video clips offer first-hand accounts from people living with type 2 diabetes. It was produced in partnership with Diabetes Australia VIC.

View the video clips or order the DVD  http://realtimehealth.com/conditions/diabetes/type-2-diabetes

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