Living with diabetes can be frustrating and difficult. In order to lead a normal life, diabetic patients should be fully aware of what they can and cannot do. They should know how to make adjustments in their life style, diet, exercise and medications and should also be well prepared to deal with diabetes-related problems that may occur. So how does one get all these information? This is where the importance of diabetes education comes in. One of the most important components of successful diabetes management is diabetes education.
Diabetes education is not just about teaching diabetic patients what to do and what not to do. The main aim of this diabetes education is to enable the patients to self manage their diabetes by teaching them about the effects of food, exercise, medication and stress on the blood sugar levels. This will help the patients to make appropriate changes in their lifestyle so that glucose levels can be maintained within the target level suggested by their doctors. The patients are also provided with the support and tools necessary for the effective management of diabetes.
Components of diabetes education
Diabetes education is mainly based on several components such as
- Clinical care
- Health promotion
Diabetes education thus helps to increase diabetes awareness, develop skills and attitudes that aim at preventing serious long-term complications, improving the quality of life, and improving the self management ability of people suffering from diabetes.
Diabetes educators and their roles
Diabetes educators are the people who impart knowledge and skills pertaining to managing the disease effectively. Diabetes educators can be healthcare professionals like nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, physicians, physical therapists, psychologists and social workers. People who are not from a healthcare profession, but having had training in diabetes management and teaching can also take up the role of diabetes educators.
Diabetes care is comprised of educational, clinical and psychological factors that have to be mastered and applied by the diabetes educator. Being affected with diabetes can be emotionally draining for the patients. A diabetes educator can also bring about changes in the life of such patients by helping them to think positively and to adopt the changes required to accomplish diabetes self-management effectively. Not only does the educator teaches about self management of diabetes, but also provides counseling and support to the patients. Therefore the role of a diabetes educator is not just limited to providing information to the people, but it extends to other services such as offering support and facilities to the patients to manage their diabetes.
Who should be educated?
Diabetes education is mainly targeted to those who need to be aware of managing their diabetes and also those who are interested in knowing about diabetes. Based on these two groups, diabetes education can be given to
- Diabetic patients
- Family of people suffering from diabetes
- Healthcare professionals
- People who plan health policies
- The community
Diabetes education topics
The following are some of the topics covered by diabetes education
- Basics of diabetes
- Diagnosis and progression of the disease
- Understanding your blood glucose numbers
- Monitoring of blood glucose levels
- Meal planning and carbohydrate counting
- Physical activity
- Preventing associated complications
- Managing stress
- Foot care
- Administration of insulin or other diabetes medications
- Managing illnesses
- Weight loss
- Setting personal goals and achieving them
Advantages of diabetes patient education
Diabetes education is found to have a positive effect on the biological, emotional and social well being of the patient. Some of the benefits of diabetes education include
- Improving knowledge of diabetes and adapting lifestyle changes
- Reduced occurrence of long –term complications
- Reduced incidence of being absent from work
- Effective control of diabetes during ailments or intense physical activity
- Reduced incidence of damage of tissues due to neuropathy or ischemia
- Decreased feeling of helplessness
- Decreased fear of diabetes complications
- Better involvement of patients in managing diabetes
- Improved the health outcome of patients
- Better acceptance of the disease by the pateints, which leads to reduced feeling of isolation
- Reduced need for diabetes medications and blood testing strips
- Reduced medical costs
In spite of the fact that self management education is the key to diabetes care, the importance of diabetes education is often overlooked. This is because diabetes is not considered as a serious disease by the community. Financial problems, lack of educational resources and limited access to available education programs are other factors that prevent the proper utilization of diabetes education programs. The primary objective of diabetes education is to help people in developing the techniques and skills needed to manage the disease more effectively by providing valuable information and tools, and changing the way people think and behave. The more knowledge of diabetes gained, the better will be the control of this disease.
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