A range of emotions are normal if you have an upcoming visit to a diabetes heath center or diabetes clinic. You might feel:
· Relieved. You may have suspected for months or years that you had diabetes or were at risk, and now you have the go-ahead to get medical help for it.
· Determined. You may be ready to do everything you can to stay healthy and prevent complications from high blood sugar.
· Shocked. You might not have had any idea that you were at risk for high blood sugar.
· Overwhelmed. Recognizing that you have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes can be overwhelming if you are already managing another medical condition, and/or if you are realizing that blood sugar management is a long-term and intensive responsibility.
· Guilty. While nobody should be made to feel ashamed of their health situation, some people do feel embarrassed. They may feel that their blood sugar is their own fault or they should have done something to prevent diabetes or prediabetes.
These emotions can be confusing and powerful, and they can help you focus on your upcoming visit to a diabetes health center. A diabetes health center can help you achieve important goals such as maintaining healthier blood sugar levels, incorporating your self-management behaviors into your daily routine, and feeling confident that you have the tools, motivation, and support that you need to stay healthy as possible.
What are a diabetes health center and diabetes health clinic?
A diabetes health center is a facility dedicated to helping you manage or prevent diabetes. The center offers resources to achieve target blood glucose levels so you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes or complications of diabetes.
Your diabetes health clinic may offer a team-based approach to diabetes care to provide you with expertise and support in a variety of areas. These are some likely team members.[i]
· Primary care provider (PCP) to lead your care and see you for checkups and regular care.
· Nurse educator (RN) to help you with daily management techniques, such as taking your medications, measuring your blood sugar, and recognizing symptoms of high or low blood sugar (hyper or hypoglycemia).
· Certified diabetes educator (CDE) (may be the nurse or dietitian) to help you with the ins and outs of living with diabetes or prediabetes.
· Endocrinologist to assist with specialized care if you run into trouble controlling blood sugar or with your hormones.
· Pharmacist, who may be onsite or at a local pharmacy, to assist in making sure your medications are working for you and you know how to take them safely.
· Specialists, such as eye, teeth, kidney, and foot doctors to monitor for problems and treat complications of diabetes if needed.
These professionals are trained to serve patients with prediabetes and diabetes, and they should work together with each other and with you to provide you with the best care possible.
Can diabetes health centers help me with prediabetes?
Yes! Many diabetes health centers recognize the value of preventing diabetes, and are ready to help if you have prediabetes. Ask the diabetes clinic to be sure that they treat prediabetes when you call for an appointment, and feel proud of yourself for taking steps to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
How do I find a diabetes health center near me?
You can find a diabetes health center near you by asking your doctor where to go. You can also look at online directories to find diabetes clinics and see ratings and reviews of nearby locations. Credible organizations such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) have search engines for finding providers.
How should I be prepared before going to a diabetes clinic?
· Health insurance card. Also contact the clinic beforehand to make sure they take your insurance and to see if they will need to present any other information to your insurance company.
· Lists of food and medication allergies and any medications that you are on. This can enable your doctor, pharmacist, and other specialists to safely prescribe medication and create a treatment plan.
· Payment. Find out how much the visit or your co-pay for the visit will cost, and be sure you bring cash or have a credit card that the diabetes clinic accepts.
· Past test results. Your doctor will likely want to know your blood sugar test results, as well as related results such as cholesterol levels and kidney function. Ask the clinic which test results you should gather, and whether it would be best if you signed a medical records release form so the clinic can gather the records it needs.
· Pen and paper for notes. Physical pen and paper or smartphone note-taking app, we can all use a little help with our memories. You can also prepare by listing any questions that you have.
How can I be sure that I have a good doctor?
Many factors help determine whether a doctor is right for you. Find out the doctor’s qualifications, such as training in diabetes management. Also check how much experience the doctor has in treating or preventing diabetes and its complications. Ask the doctor how many patients she regularly treats, and whether most of them have diabetes. A doctor who focuses on diabetes may be better equipped to manage yours than a doctor who is more generalized.
You might want to ask about:
· Areas of research, if any, that the doctor is interested in.
· The doctor’s approach to team care.
· Which specialists you might be referred to if needed.
· Recommendations from current patients.
In addition to these objective criteria, personal factors matter, too. For example, a doctor who is conveniently located, whose appointment times work for you, and whose practice has after-hours support makes care more accessible. You may be less likely to seek the care you need if it is inconvenient to do so.
You will be better able to evaluate the new doctor after your first visit. What is your gut reaction? Did you connect with the doctor? Do you feel comfortable telling her about your concerns? Did she answer your questions in terms you can understand and in a respectful manner? Was the appointment on time?
Individual considerations are important, too. Your doctor should tailor your treatment plan to your lifestyle, and ask for your input. She should be compassionate and work to understand any barriers you face when managing diabetes.
What happens at a diabetes clinic?
The assessment will probably include a review of your medical history, a physical examination, and additional tests to give the doctor any necessary information. The doctor may ask if you have a family history of diabetes, whether you have complications, and what your current treatment plan, if any, is. She should also ask how you feel about your diabetes and whether you have any barriers to managing your blood sugar.
The physical examination may include familiar measurements that you always have when you visit the doctor, and/or diabetes-specific ones that you may not have had in the past. You should also have an assessment of diabetes or prediabetes signs and symptoms.
· Height and weight.
· Blood pressure.
· Palpation of your organs and thyroid gland.
· Checking heart, lungs, and reflexes.
· Examining your hands and feet.
If needed, your doctor may order medical tests such as your fasting blood sugar, A1C, and your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Developing a Treatment Plan
Your team members should work together and provide you with a treatment plan. You should be involved in the development of your plan to be sure it fits into your lifestyle and accounts for your personal circumstances such as preferred schedule, family members, and any work or school obligations.
Your plan should include the following.
· Appointments or future plans for making appointments with necessary specialists, such as a podiatrist, dentist, kidney doctor, or eye doctor.
· Short-term and long-term goals that you agree with.
· Medication prescriptions and how to use them, if necessary.
· A plan for making other changes, if needed, such as quitting smoking or increasing physical activity.
· Education on blood sugar measuring and tracking.
· What to do if you have high or low blood sugar values.
Following Up to Increase Success
You can take actions to improve your blood sugar management after your visit to a diabetes clinic. Building a strong support system can make diabetes management or prevention easier. In general, the more, the merrier when it comes to support. Ask your family members and friends to do whatever you think might help, from eating heathy with you, to reminding you to test blood sugar at the times you are supposed to, to helping your children with homework while you take walks in the evenings.
Since so much of your diabetes management depends on you, wouldn’t it be nice to have a personal health coach in your pocket? Lark health apps for diabetes and prediabetes enable you to do just that. Your coach is available 24/7 to help you stay on track with your treatment plan. Lark:
· Coaches around blood sugar management, prediabetes and diabetes, and healthy behaviors.
· Alerts you if your blood sugar is into dangerous levels and you need to connect with a healthcare professional.
· Asks about your doctors’ appointment to help you remember the appointments that can keep you healthy.
Lark tailors its program to you, allowing you to choose programs such as a low-carb, vegetarian, or gluten-free diet, and learning from your regular habits to further customize coaching. With Lark, you are never alone in your health journey!