It is always a good idea to learn from the “experts:” health-care professionals with expertise in the area of diabetes education and training. Such experts may include doctors, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise physiologists, mental health professionals, and others. Many of the professionals who offer diabetes education have become certified to do so, either as a certified diabetes educator (CDE) or a board-certified advanced diabetes manager (BC-ADM) — or in some cases, both. Diabetes educators help people with diabetes learn about their disease, understand how it affects them and their lifestyle, and acquire the skills necessary to take care of their diabetes on a daily basis.
It is important to note that most diabetes education services require a referral by a physician. This is usually necessary for insurance coverage for the services. To avoid any surprises, check up front with your insurance carrier to determine what coverage you have for diabetes education and training. Some questions to ask include the following:
• Is there is a limit to the number of diabetes education classes or one-on-one visits that will be covered?
• Do the education sessions need to be completed within a certain period of time?
• Do the class or visit fees count toward your deductible, if you have one?
• Are you are responsible for any co-payments?
• Does the education program have to meet any accreditation requirements for insurance reimbursement? (Medicare, for example, requires that a diabetes education program be certified.)
• Will the insurance plan pay for a family member to attend diabetes education sessions on behalf of the person with diabetes if, for example, the person with diabetes is a child or an adult with a physical or mental disability?
Examples of accredited programs include the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ Diabetes Education Accreditation Program and the American Diabetes Association’s Education Recognition Program. Some federal health-care services, such as the Indian Health Service and Veterans Health Administration, offer diabetes education services to their beneficiaries. (Click here for information on how to find an accredited diabetes education program.)
Check with the diabetes education program you are thinking about attending and ask what the total cost of the program will be. You may also want to ask how frequently the program is offered and whether you can make up sessions if you miss any. Be sure to ask if the program will bill your health insurance or if some other payment arrangement is preferred. Also, check to see if family members are welcome to attend along with you. Unless there are space restraints, family members are usually encouraged to be there to learn and offer support at no charge.
If you have no health insurance or are unable to afford your plan’s co-payment for diabetes education and training, check with your health-care provider about any free programs that may be available.
What to learn
A number of different topics that affect your diabetes health should be included as part of your diabetes education. Ideally, education and training is an interactive process, in which there is time in each session for the student to ask questions and, in group classes, for members to take part in discussions to learn from one another.
The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) recommends a framework for diabetes education that focuses on seven areas of self-care. The self-care behaviors referred to as the AADE7 include the following:
Healthy eating. When you have diabetes, it is essential to learn how to make healthy food choices and to become familiar with how different types of food affect your blood glucose level. Your diabetes education should also touch on estimating portion sizes, reading nutrition facts labels, food preparation techniques, and timing of meals as it relates to physical activity and certain diabetes medicines, if they are part of your treatment plan. Healthy eating can also help with weight control, which can in turn help control blood glucose levels.