Healthcare Education: Challenges In Diabetes For Patients and healthcare providers. Diabetes in general poses significant challenges in healthcare. Due to rising costs many patients can't afford basic needs. It is important to focus healthcare education on surviving this disease with a healthy quality of life. Read below to see the Healthcare Education article: Challenges In Diabetes for key tips to caring for these patients.
Diabetes At A Glance
We will look at the two main types of diabetes; Type 1 Diabetes (Insulin Dependent) and Type 2 Diabetes. Let’s take a look at each of these in detail to brush up your healthcare education on diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes – This type is an autoimmune condition that causes the pancreatic islet cells to cease function. When this occurs the body is no longer able to secrete insulin to help glucose move into cells. The blood sugar can rise dangerously high, and the patient needs to resort to insulin injections to sustain life. It is usually diagnosed in later teen years and early adulthood.
This type is hereditary and may set in motion by a virus or stress on the body. Symptoms include; weight loss, dry mouth, extreme fatigue, excessive urination and excessive hunger. The only treatment at this time is insulin injections. Complications can include; kidney failure, loss of feeling in extremities, blindness, loss of limbs, coma and even death.
Type 2 Diabetes – This form of diabetes is acquired at any time in life. The pancreas lowers the production of insulin and decreases insulin sensitivity in the cells. This is caused by factors such as; being overweight, genetic predisposition, lifestyle factors and poor diet. Symptoms include; excessive thirst, excessive urination, vision issues and poor wound healing.
Treatments for Type 2 Diabetes can be; oral anti-diabetic medications to help increase insulin production and sensitize cells to insulin, diet control, maintaining a healthy weight and sometimes insulin injections. Complications include; damage to blood vessels, damage to peripheral nerves in the extremities, heart disease and kidney failure. The same serious complications apply including; loss of limbs, coma and death if blood sugars are left uncontrolled for too long.
Healthcare Education: Challenges In Diabetes
Tight Blood Sugar Control
Healthcare education should focus on tips for blood sugar control. Patients need to understand that blood sugars should be checked several times daily. Normal blood Sugar levels are around 60 to 120 in most people. When the blood sugar falls below 60, the patient may be shaky, sweaty, agitated or lethargic. It is important to know, a diabetic that averages blood sugars over 200 may experience the symptoms of low blood sugar even at levels around 130. To prevent this, most doctor’s aim to keep a diabetics blood sugar right around 150.
In order to prevent complications from hyperglycemia (blood sugar that is too high), blood sugars that are over 400 need an immediate physician contact or emergency room visit. Healthcare education for patients should encourage them to check blood sugar at least twice daily. If on insulin, blood sugars need to be check prior to each meal. Patients can do random checks during the day as needed if they feel symptomatic.
Poor Dietary Control
Eating healthy can be expensive. One way of making this easier is the glycemic index. Patients can eat most foods that are already in the house for the rest of the family. They just avoid foods that are “high” on the glycemic index. Foods that are “lower” on the index cab be eaten in bigger portions.
If a patient has not yet seen a diabetic educator for diabetic healthcare education, help them get in touch with resources to see one.
Patients need reminders for better medication compliance. Some types of insulin must be kept refrigerated. This can lead to a patient forgetting their shot. Teaching reminder techniques can help a patient remember to take their shots at the appropriate times.
Teach patients how to use pill reminder boxes for oral medications and write times down for them. For insulin, yellow sticky notes on the front of the refrigerator can help them remember to take their shot.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
One important part of healthcare education is helping diabetic patients to understand that healthy lifestyle changes can lower blood sugars. Even light to moderate walking, stretching or yoga can help. It is also important to discourage alcohol use and smoking. The sugar in alcohol raises the blood sugar levels and weakens the liver response to glucose. Smoking with diabetes can damage already weakened peripheral blood vessels and nerves leading to issues in the cardiac system and extremities. Lifestyle is actually a big factor in living a healthy life with diabetes.
Using Healthcare Education: To Overcome Challenges in Diabetes
Even if they can't all be outlined in this article, there are many challenges in diabetes that can be overcome. Healthcare professionals play a key role in teaching diabetic patients positive health practices to reduce complications. This can be done at each patient contact with just a few questions:
Are you checking your blood sugars daily?
Are you eating 3 balanced meals and 2 snacks?
What medications are you taking? (Have them show you if possible)
Are you getting enough exercise?
Ask about alcohol and tobacco use.
This will open up the conversation for patient teaching. If possible, try to have some healthcare education pamphlets available to hand to the patient. They may forget the conversation and having a brochure handy is helpful to keep in the home.
Addressing the basic challenges in diabetes at every patient contact can help reduce complications of this disease. Every healthcare professional should be ready to do diabetic healthcare education at every patient visit. It is helpful to have printed information to give to the patient for them to keep in their home.