Patients with diabetes need to understand what diabetes is. Patients who understand what diabetes is and the complicated process associated with the disease are more likely to comply with the prescribed regimen. Diabetes Mellitus is a syndrome with disordered metabolism and inappropriate hyperglycemia due to either a deficiency of insulin secretion or to a combination of insulin resistance and inadequate insulin secretion to compensate (Davis, 2001). Diabetes is a chronic progressive disease that requires lifestyle changes, especially in the areas of nutrition and physical activity. The overall goal of medical and nutritional therapy is to assist persons with diabetes in making self-directed behavioral changes that will improve their overall health (Franz, 2012). Blood glucose monitoring and goals of blood glucose monitoring
Testing blood glucose levels pre-meal and post-meal can help the patient with diabetes make better food choices, based on how their bodies are responding to specific foods. Patients should be taught specific directions for obtaining an adequate blood sample and what to do with the numbers that they receive. Research has found that patients who have had education on the use of their meters and how to interpret the data are more likely to perform self-blood glucose monitoring on a regular basis (Franz, 2012).
There are many different glucose monitors available for patients. The patient needs to have a device that is easy for them to use and convenient. A patient’s visual acuity and dexterity skills should be assessed prior to selecting a blood glucose monitoring device. A device is usually selected to meet the patient’s needs in collaboration with a diabetic educator at a health care facility.
The patient needs to be reminded to record the blood glucose values on a log sheet with the date and time and any associated signs and symptoms that he/she is experiencing at the time the specimen was obtained. This log should be shared with his/her primary care practitioner.
A discussion of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) should include the reasons for doing the test, how it is performed and how the health care practitioner will interpret the data. These laboratory tests are ordered on a routine basis along with other laboratory tests that are being monitored for the patient. A simple method to describe the HbA1c is to tell the patient that the test measures the amount of sugar that attaches to the protein in the red blood cell. The test shows the average blood sugar during the last three months. The higher the blood sugar the higher the HbA1c. The high blood sugar over a long period of time causes damage to the large and small blood vessels therefore increasing the risk of complications from diabetes.
Medications and Insulin
The patient with diabetes needs to be reminded that the addition of medications to help manage his/her diabetes is not because they are failing at diet management. Many patients with diabetes become depressed or despondent when they have to begin taking oral hyperglycemic medications and/or insulin. The teaching session should include a review of the different types of oral diabetic agents. A review of the different types of insulins and how to mix insulins should also be discussed.
Teach the patient about self-administration of insulin or oral agents as prescribed, and the importance of taking medications exactly as prescribed, in the appropriate dose (Davis, 2001). Patients should be provided with a list of signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and actions to take in each situation.
Complications from Diabetes
The teaching regarding the complications encountered from diabetes should stress the effect of blood glucose control on long-term health (McGovern, 2002). The patient should be taught how to manage their diabetes when he/she has a minor illness, such as a cold, flu or gastrointestinal virus. The patient should also be taught how to watch for diabetic effects on the cardiovascular system, such as cerebrovascular incidents/stroke, coronary artery disease, and peripheral vascular disease.
Patients should be taught how to be alert for signs of urinary tract, respiratory tract infections and signs of renal disease. Assessment for signs of diabetic neuropathy should also be included in the teaching plan. Diabetes is the leading cause of death by disease in the United States, it also is a contributing factor in about 50% of myocardial infarctions and about 75% of strokes as well as renal failure and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetes is also the leading cause of new blindness (McGovern, 2002).
Patients with diabetes should also receive education on the importance of smoking cessation, cholesterol and lipid management, blood pressure monitoring and management and management of other disease processes.
Skin and Foot Care
Teach the patient to care for his feet by washing them daily, drying them carefully particularly between the toes, and inspecting for corns, calluses, redness, swelling, bruises, blisters, and breaks in the skin. The patient should be encouraged to report any changes to his/her health care provider as soon as possible. Advise the patient to wear non-constricting shoes and to avoid walking barefoot. The patient may use over-the-counter athlete’s foot remedies to cure foot fungal infections and should be encouraged to call their health care provider if the athlete’s foot doesn’t improve (McGovern, 2002). The patient should be reminded that he/she needs to treat all injuries, cuts and blisters particularly on the legs or feet carefully.
Patients should be aware that foot problems are a common problem for patients with diabetes. Informing them of what to look for is an important teaching concern. The signs and symptoms of foot problems to emphasize are: feet that are cold, blue or black in color, feet that are warm and red in color, foot swelling, foot pain when resting or with activity, weak pulses in the feet, not feeling pain although there is a cut or sore on the foot, shiny smooth skin on the feet and lower legs
Exercise and Diabetes
A moderate weight loss of ten to twenty pounds has been known to improve hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. The target goal for body weight for patients with diabetes is based on a reasonable or healthy body weight. “Reasonable body weight is the weight an individual and health care professional acknowledge as achievable and maintainable, both short-term and long-term (Franz, 2012, p.8).” More emphasis is now placed on waist circumference, rather than on actual weight.
A waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men and greater than 35 inches in women indicates a risk for metabolic disease. This is now part of what is referred to as metabolic syndrome. Reducing abdominal fat improves insulin sensitivity as well as lipid profiles. The benefits from exercise result from regular, long term, and aerobic exercise. Exercise used to increase muscle strength is an important means of preserving and increasing muscular strength and endurance and is useful in helping to prevent falls and increase mobility among the elderly (Franz, 2012).
Regular exercise can improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system, improve strength and flexibility, improve lipid levels, improve glycemic control, help decrease weight, and improve quality of life and self-esteem. Exercise increases the cellular glucose uptake by increasing the number of cell receptors. The following points should be considered in educating patients regarding beginning an exercise program. Exercise program must be individualized and built up slowly. Insulin is more rapidly absorbed when injected into a limb that is exercised, therefore can result in hypoglycemia (Ferri, 1999).
“Patients need to be informed that exercise of a high intensity can also cause blood glucose levels to be higher after exercise than before, even though blood glucose levels are in the normal range before beginning exercise. This hyperglycemia can also extend into the post-exercise state and is mediated by the counter-regulatory hormones (Franz, 2012, p. 62).”
The exercise program should include a five to ten minute warm-up and cool-down session. The warm-up increases core body temperature and prevents muscle injury and the cool-down session prevents blood pooling in the extremities and facilitates removal of metabolic by-products. Research studies show there are similar cardiorespiratory benefits that occur when activity is done in shorter sessions, (approximately 10 minutes) accumulated throughout the day than in activity sessions of prolonged sessions (greater than 30 minutes) (Franz, 2012). This is an important factor to emphasize with patients who don’t think they have the time and energy for exercise.
Diet and Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has established nutritional guidelines for patients with diabetes. Their focus is on achieving optimal metabolic outcomes related to glycemia, lipid profiles, and blood pressure levels. Patients with diabetes need to maintain a healthy diet consisting of multiple servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meats, and poultry (Franz, 2012). The exchange diet of the ADA includes protein, bread, fruit, milk, and low and intermediate carbohydrate vegetables (Ferri, 1999).
The food/meal plan is based on the individual’s appetite, preferred foods, and usual schedule of food intake and activities, and cultural preferences. Determination of caloric needs varies considerably among individuals, and is based on present weight and current level of energy. Required calories are about 40 kcal/kg or 20 kcal/lb per day for adults with normal activity patterns (Davis, 2001). Emphasis should also be placed on maintaining a consistent day-to-day carbohydrate intake at meals and snacks.
It is the carbohydrates that have the greatest impact on glycemia. “A number of factors influence glycemic responses to foods, including the amount of carbohydrate, nature of the monosaccharide components, nature of the starch, cooking and food processing, and other food components (Franz, 2012, p.13).” Maintaining a food diary can help identify areas of weaknesses and how to prepare better menu plans.
Recommendations for fiber intake are the same for patients with diabetes as for the general population. It is recommended that they increase the amount of fiber to approximately 50 grams per day in their diet. Insoluble and soluble globular fiber delay glucose absorption and attenuate the postprandial serum glucose peak, they also help to lower the elevated triglyceride levels often present in uncontrolled diabetes (Ferri, 1999). The discussion of diet management should also include a discussion of alcohol intake. Precautions regarding the use of alcohol that apply to the general public also apply to people with diabetes. Abstaining from alcohol should be advised for people with a history of alcohol abuse, during pregnancy, and for people with other medical conditions such as pancreatitis, advanced neuropathy, and elevated triglycerides.
The effects of alcohol on blood glucose levels is dependent on the amount of alcohol ingested as well as the relationship to food intake. Because alcohol cannot be used as a source of glucose, hypoglycemia can result when alcohol is ingested without food. The hypoglycemia can persist from eight to twelve hours after the last drink of alcohol. When alcohol is ingested in moderation and with food, blood glucose levels are not affected by the ingestion of moderate amounts of alcohol. If the patient plans to consume alcoholic beverages they are to be included in the meal plan. The patient should be reminded that no food should be omitted because of the possibility of alcohol induced hypoglycemia (Franz, 2012).
Coping with Diabetes
The patient needs to understand that the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus as with any chronic illness can be unexpected and potentially devastating. Grief is the most common reaction of an individual diagnosed with diabetes. Resolution of the grief is dependent on variables such as education, economics, geography, and religious and cultural factors. The support of family and friends affects the long-term acceptance of the disease progression. Patients need to be aware that depression is common with chronic diseases such as diabetes. The depression should be recognized and treated as soon as possible since depression can affect glycemic control and complicate the management of the diabetes (Buttaro, 2008).
The patient needs to understand that diabetes is a lifelong disease process that requires a lifetime commitment and lifestyle changes. The patient should be educated about empowerment – having the resources and knowing how and when to use them. The skills of empowerment that help the patient reflect on life satisfaction in the following areas: physical, mental, spiritual, family related, social, work related, financial, personal.
The patient should be encouraged to establish goals which emphasize at least two of these areas in which he/she has control. In the session of coping with diabetes the patient should be assisted to develop better problem solving skills, which are necessary to manage a life-long disease such as diabetes. Coping with diabetes should also include stress management concepts. Stress management concepts should include: a definition of stress, the body’s reaction to stress, the effects of stress on diabetes management, identifying stressors, identifying methods of coping, relaxation exercises and identifying support systems to tap into.
Management of the disease process should include eliminating or minimizing other cardiovascular risk factors for example blood pressure control, lipid control, and smoking cessation. Patients with diabetes should also be instructed on what to do when they become sick with a cold, flu, gastrointestinal virus, or other minor illness. They need to be aware that these minor illnesses can affect their diabetes and blood glucose levels (McGovern, 2002). Instruction on what to do when they become ill and the importance of continuing to take their diabetes medications and/or insulin and other general care should be discussed.
Some basic guidelines for management during an illness or sick-day include maintain adequate hydration because of the risk of dehydration from decreased fluid intake, polyuria, vomiting, diarrhea, and evaporative losses from fever. Patient should be instructed to drink at least eight ounces of calorie free liquids every hour while they are awake. The beverages should be caffeine-free, since caffeine acts as a diuretic and can actually increase the chances of hypovolemia. If the patient is unable to tolerate fluids by mouth, antiemetic suppositories or intravenous fluids may be required. Vomiting that is persistent and intractable may require emergency room care. The patient should be encouraged to perform blood glucose monitoring more frequently while he/she is ill and to initiate urine ketone monitoring with urine dipsticks, during the illness (Franz, 2012).
The patient should be instructed to continue taking his/her insulin and/or oral antidiabetic agents while ill and even when unable to eat. The omission of insulin is a common cause of ketosis and can result in a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. The patient should be given a list of foods that contain fast acting carbohydrates that they can consume when they experience signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Patients should be encouraged to seek regular ophthalmologic examinations to detect for diabetic retinopathy. Regular dental examinations should also be encouraged to evaluate to potential areas that can become infected and possible oral lesions.
Summary The teaching program for the patients with diabetes is designed to be held for six sessions. However, the sessions can be lengthened or shortened to meet the needs of the intended audience. These two to three hour sessions allow the patient to absorb the material that is being taught and to be able to ask questions. The learning needs are focused on managing their glucose levels and preventing complications of diabetes. The patient needs to be educated on the multiple disease processes associated with diabetes and the factors affecting each of these areas.
The patient also needs to have the knowledge of how to manage their diabetes when they are ill and warning signs that they are hypo/hyperglycemic. Diabetic patients should be advised to contact their health care provider any time they are unsure what to do or have questions on how to manage their disease. There are many teaching handouts and pamphlets that are available free of charge from the various agencies. These handouts are available on a wide variety of subjects that can be used with the teaching plan. The evaluation criteria for the teaching plan would include an evaluation tool in which the patients could complete anonymously at the end of the program.
Buttaro, T.M., Trybulski, J., Bailey, P.P., Sandberg-Cook, J. (2008).
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NO Franz, M. (Ed.) (2001). Diabetes Management Therapies: A Core Curriculum for Diabetes Education. 4th Edition. Chicago, IL: American Association of Diabetes Educators.
Franz, M. (2012). American Diabetes Association Guide to Nutrition Therapy for Diabetes, 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association.
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