The Role of Your Care Team Members
When you have diabetes, you need a core group of care team members to help you navigate the change and complexities that are a natural part of your condition. The following professionals should be a part of your team:
Primary care doctor:
This is the doctor you see for routine checkups and when you get sick. Your doctor should have special training or experience in diabetes care. Many times, a person with diabetes sees an endocrinologist as their doctor, but if that's not possible, be you're your doctor has a lot of experience taking care of people with diabetes. Frequently, your doctor will help you get your diabetes care team together.
You should feel extremely comfortable asking your doctor questions. You shouldn't feel rushed, and it should always feel like your doctor is listening to your concerns.
This is a registered nurse who has special training and background caring for and teaching people with diabetes. Nurse educators teach you about the basics of day-to-day care-medications, working with insulin and giving yourself shots, testing your blood glucose (sugar), symptoms of high and low glucose levels, how to manage illness and pregnancy, etc.
Since so much of your care plan is based on food, a registered dietitian with experience in diabetes care plays an important role. Registered dietitians help you figure out your food plan. They can help you learn how food affects your blood glucose and blood fats, how to read food labels and exchange lists, how to choose food in restaurants and how to incorporate your traditional family foods into your life.
Your eye doctor should be either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. The most important thing is that this individual has experience detecting the signs of diabetic retinopathy. People with diabetes should see their eye doctors at least once a year.
Mental health professionals such as social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists can help you handle the emotional problems that come with having diabetes. They can help you address family issues, how to manage stress, how to deal with financial problems, etc.
Foot doctor (podiatrist):
Podiatrists help you keep foot problems in check. You yourself should check your feet every day, but a podiatrist can treat sores that won't heal, corns and calluses and more serious problems.
Does your dentist know you have diabetes? The excess sugar in your mouth increases your risk of gum disease. Visit your dentist every six months to catch any complications early.
This professional can help you plan a good fitness program that is tailored to your needs. Exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently, it helps control weight, it influences blood fat levels and it helps reduce stress. You can see why an exercise physiologist is an important member of your care team.
When you think of your care team, be sure to include yourself as a member. You're the one who has to test your blood sugar, take medication, inject insulin, eat the right foods and get exercise. It's important that you acknowledge yourself as a key player on the team.
In many cases, your care team can work together to discuss issues related to your particular situation. This approach helps ensure good continuity, because each of your healthcare providers knows about the different aspects of your care. Ask your doctor if this is the approach he or she usually takes.
It it's not, it's sill important for you to see each of these healthcare providers regularly. How often depends on your particular situation.
American Diabetes Association, April 2002