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Planning for a Successful Health-Care Visit

by Janet Howard-Ducsay, RN, CDE

You have canceled your last two appointments with your doctor, but now the pharmacy says you need to have new prescriptions for your diabetes supplies and medicines. You can’t put it off any longer: It’s time to see your doctor about your diabetes. But this time, maybe things can be different: Maybe you can view your doctor appointment as an opportunity to get your questions answered and to get help with your diabetes care — rather than as an obligatory meeting you’ve come to dread.

Here are some tips for how to get what you need from your doctor visits for diabetes care:

Make time for it
First, schedule your appointments at times that are good for you. Do you tend to try to squeeze them in between picking up groceries and picking up the kids? Is there a big deadline approaching at work the day before your appointment? Your diabetes appointments are just about you, and they deserve your undivided attention. Try to make each session with your doctor or other health-care provider a time when you are not rushed, preoccupied, or multitasking. Turn off your cell phone during the appointment so you don’t get distracted.

Plan ahead
Start thinking ahead of time about what you want to ask or talk about at your appointment. A lot can go on between visits, and it can be difficult to remember everything you want to bring up. So keep a small notebook handy, and write down your questions and concerns as they come up. (Click here for a list of helpful questions to ask at your appointment.) Plan on telling your doctor about any major changes in your life or your daily schedule, such as starting a new job or traveling more than usual. Changes such as these — and even more minor changes — can affect your blood glucose levels.

Review your notebook one month, one week, and again one day before your appointment to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important. At your appointment, keep your notebook out so you can refer to it, and use it to take notes on your doctor’s or other caregiver’s instructions.

Bring your meter and logbook
Bring both your meter and your logbook to your appointments. Make sure that your meter is well charged or has fresh batteries so your physician or the office staff can review your meter memory and/or upload it to a computer. Check with the office before your appointment to ask if they have the capability to upload data from your specific meter.

The numbers recorded in your logbook help your doctor see trends, or patterns, in your blood glucose levels. Seeing a pattern of highs or lows enables your doctor to recommend medication changes or changes in other parts of your diabetes regimen. Having actual numbers is much more useful than telling your physician, “My sugars are all over the place.” However, only accurate records are useful: Filling in your logbook the night before your appointment will be obvious to your doctor and won’t be helpful in improving your blood glucose control.

If your provider has not already specified what glucose ranges you should be aiming for before breakfast, lunch, and dinner and before bedtime, ask — and make sure to write it down in your notebook.

Facing the scale
Being weighed is a common feature of most diabetes checkups. Physicians (or their office staff) generally do it to maintain complete patient records and to comply with insurance policy mandates. Unfortunately, this requirement contributes to the dread many people feel about going to the doctor. For them, the numbers on the scale may represent failure, disappointment, the possibility of being scolded, or the futility of their efforts to lose weight.

If that sounds like you, consider developing a different attitude toward the scale. Regardless of the number, find something positive to say about yourself or your efforts to care for your health and your diabetes. For example, share with your doctor that you have started a walking program. Tell him you have found a lunch partner who also has diabetes and that you are eating healthy meals together at work. Really think about something positive you have been doing. Perhaps you recently enjoyed your first green vegetable ever or tried a new type of fruit. Remember that your weight is only one measure of your health. Developing healthy lifestyle habits such as being physically active and eating healthful foods can have beneficial effects beyond any effect they may have on your weight.

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