Your Diabetes Health Care Team
Taking care of your diabetes is like a big class project. It takes all of your team members — you, your parents, doctors, certified diabetes educators, dietitians, and mental health pros — to work together to get the job done.
In this case, though, instead of ending up with a presentation for history class or a winning science-fair project, you'll have a diabetes treatment plan that helps you stay healthy and lets you do all the things you like to do.
When it comes to treating diabetes, you're the most important member of the team. Your parents still play a very important role — think of them as your co-captains — but your diabetes team will help develop a treatment plan that's made just for you. Also, the team can help you cope with some of the emotions and feelings that people with diabetes have to deal with.
You'll probably come across one or more of the following diabetes health care team members during your checkups:
A pediatric endocrinologist (pronounced: en-duh-krih-NOL-eh-jist) is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kids and teens with diseases of the endocrine system, such as diabetes and growth disorders. But pediatricians, family practitioners, and other medical doctors can also treat people with diabetes.
Doctors ask detailed questions about how you feel and perform physical exams, which can include checking several parts of your body and taking your blood pressure. They also may check your diabetes records and your blood sugar level, and they may ask you for a urine sample.
Your doctor can help teach you about diabetes and any other health problem you may have. After getting treatment suggestions from other diabetes health care team members as needed, your doctor will write down what you need to do to manage your diabetes in a treatment plan, or diabetes management plan.
Think of your doctor as your diabetes team coach who develops a game plan for managing diabetes. Doctors also write prescriptions for insulin and other medications and may refer you to other specialists if you need them.
Don't be afraid to ask your doctor questions and make sure you're able to understand the answers. If you feel uncomfortable asking questions in front of your parents, you can ask to speak to your doctor alone. Your doctor has probably heard it all, so you shouldn't feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask about anything that's on your mind.
Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs)
Certified diabetes educators have special training in helping people manage their diabetes. The letters CDE after someone's name means that person passed a national exam certifying him or her as a diabetes educator.
CDEs will talk to you about what diabetes is and how it affects the body. They'll also:
- help you learn how to give yourself insulin injections if you need them or use an insulin pump
- manage high and low blood sugar levels
- adjust your insulin when you're exercising or not feeling well
- show you how to test blood sugar levels
- show you how to use a blood glucose meter
- test your home equipment to make sure it's taking accurate readings
- review your diabetes management goals with you
- discuss any problems or challenges you may be having with your diabetes
Registered dietitians are experts in nutrition and meal planning. They can teach you about how food affects your blood sugar levels and make sure you're getting enough food to grow and develop properly.
When you meet with a dietitian, expect to answer a few questions about your eating habits and activity levels. The dietitian will:
- make adjustments to your meal plan based on the types of exercise you do, your lifestyle habits, and any other special events or holidays that may come up
- suggest some tasty snack ideas
- help you learn about making healthy food choices
- explain carbohydrate counting and meal planning techniques
- teach you to read food labels and figure out ways to determine the carbohydrate content of foods when food labels aren't available
Make sure to tell the dietitian if you feel like you're not getting enough to eat, you think you're eating too much, or you're not happy with your food choices.
Mental Health Professionals
Sometimes people feel uncomfortable talking to anyone who has the words "mental health" or "therapist" associated with what they do. But diabetes can be a lot to deal with and talking to someone who's not your mom, dad, or doctor can help.
Mental health professionals can be social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors. They're a great resource for people coping with diabetes. Maybe your parents are always on your back about your diabetes, or maybe you're frustrated because you feel embarrassed to give yourself shots at school or feel different from your friends. If so, these team members can help you get through it.
Mental health professionals can help you address problems you may be dealing with at home or at school, even if they're not related to your diabetes, so don't be afraid to ask for advice. They can also help you find ways to manage your diabetes, even when you don't want to deal with it.
The most important thing to remember about your diabetes is that you don't have to manage it on your own. You can always count on your team members to help you and you can always ask questions — the team has lots of experience figuring out ways to help people deal with diabetes.