Whether you have had diabetes for years or are newly diagnosed, you know that dealing with this condition can be a challenge. For one thing, diabetes never goes away. Although there are numerous medicines and other therapies available for treating diabetes, none of them are cures. Diabetes is always present, and almost everything you do, including ordinary activities like eating or taking a walk, affects your blood glucose level.
Another key characteristic of diabetes is that the primary responsibility for managing it rests with you and not with your health-care providers. Managing diabetes requires making decisions and performing various tasks several times a day. Your doctor or diabetes educator can’t possibly be there with you each time you have to make a choice about what and how much to eat, what physical activity to perform, and how much insulin or medicine to take. You will have your health-care providers’ input and guidance for managing your diabetes, but only you can perform the daily tasks necessary for keeping yourself healthy. No one can make you use a meal plan or get the regular physical activity that could make you feel better today and possibly prevent serious complications down the line. Similarly, no one can force you to take medicines or monitor your blood glucose. When it comes down to it, you must take care of your diabetes for yourself, by yourself.
Another defining feature of diabetes is the number of decisions you have to make each day. It is easier to make these decisions if you develop an overall plan. While medicines, meal planning, physical activity, and blood glucose monitoring form the basis of most diabetes plans, each person’s plan is different. Your plan needs to combine what you know about yourself with what you and your health-care team know about diabetes. So along with caring for the physical side of diabetes, your plan needs to take into account the amount of stress you face, your emotional response to diabetes, and the other demands and priorities in your life.
The chronic nature of diabetes, along with the need to make so many daily decisions, can make living with diabetes feel overwhelming at times, but it may feel less so once you have an overall plan to guide you in your daily choices. This article provides an outline for making and using a plan for managing your diabetes. The basic steps are to learn more about diabetes and how it affects you physically, emotionally, and practically; establish your goals for blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol and determine what you are willing to do to meet these goals; develop a self-management strategy with the help of your health-care team; give your plan a trial run and see what’s working and what’s not; and seek out support to help you stay the course.
Most people know little about diabetes before they’re diagnosed and even less about the impact it will have on their lives. A good way to start learning is to take a diabetes education class in your community. Inquire at your local hospital or visit www.diabetes.org, the Web site of the American Diabetes Association, to find classes in your area. Books and organizations that focus on diabetes, such as those listed in Diabetes Resources, are good starting points, as well. Your health-care providers should also be a source of information, not just about diabetes in general but about your diabetes in particular and how it can best be managed. But managing diabetes is about more than just learning about an illness. To create a workable plan, you also need to know about yourself and how your priorities, cultural and religious beliefs, personality, genetics, likes, and dislikes affect how you care for yourself and your diabetes.