Preventing and Managing Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, and blindness. People who have diabetes must carefully manage their individualized eating plan and exercise to remain healthy. As a direct support professional, you play a vital role in assisting people with developmental disabilities to eat right, exercise, and take their medication properly. These activities are especially important for people who have, or are at risk for, diabetes.
Our bodies change the foods we eat into glucose (sugar) that our cells use for energy. Blood carries glucose to our cells. The level of glucose in the bloodstream is controlled by a hormone called insulin. Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin to properly regulate glucose levels, or when cells stop responding to insulin.
If a person has untreated diabetes, his or her blood glucose is too high. Over time, this can damage the heart, kidneys, and eyes. Veryhigh blood glucose can cause a serious condition, known as ketoacidosis (diabetic coma). Ketoacidosis must be treated quickly.
Pre-diabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at greater risk for developing diabetes. However, with the right individualized eating plan and enough exercise, it is possible to prevent diabetes.
If a person you support has diabetes or pre-diabetes, they may need your help to plan and prepare an individualized eating plan, follow an exercise routine, and monitor their blood glucose. Some people with diabetes may also need your help to take daily injections of insulin, or an oral medication for the treatment of diabetes.
|Dietary Support||Exercise Routines||Health Care|
Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk are the best sources of carbohydrates.
|Help the individual choose a physical activity that they enjoy.||Talk with the person's doctor about their individualized eating plan and exercise needs.|
Avoid saturated fat and cholesterol.
|Encourage him or her to be active for 30 minutes each day.||Know how often blood glucose needs to be checked, and what the level should be.|
It is important to follow the individualized eating plan, and people may need assistance and encouragement.
|Remind the person that he or she can walk, dance, or stretch while watching TV, listening to music, or talking on the phone.||Know how to assist with the self-administration of insulin or any other necessary medication.|
Diabetes: Fast Facts
Risk Factors for Diabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Being over the age of 40
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Being African-American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or Native American descent
Symptoms of Diabetes
- Feeling tired or sleeping more than usual
- Needing to urinate more than usual
- Having numb or tingling hands or feet
- Having wounds that do not heal
- Having recurrent vaginal infections
- Having blurred vision
- Having unexplained weight loss or gain
- Being constantly hungry and/or thirsty
If you see these symptoms, take the person to their doctor as soon as possible for a blood glucose test.
Fact Focus: Responding to a Health Emergency
If someone you support experiences a health emergency, you need to be prepared and respond quickly:
Call 911. If you think you need to call 911, do it! Don’t call someone to ask if you should.
- Tell them WHO you are; WHERE you are; WHAT has happened; and WHEN it happened.
Stay with the individual experiencing the emergency, stay calm, and provide reassurance.
- Provide first-aid or CPR if necessary.
Know the person’s current medications, allergies, insurance information, and primary doctor.
- Tell this information to the emergency personnel when they arrive.
- Contact the person’s doctor, service coordinator, and family members as soon as possible.
The Highs and Lows of Blood Glucose
People with diabetes or pre-diabetes may need help managing their blood glucose levels. Those who take medication for the treatment of diabetes can experience low blood glucose if they skip a meal, take too much insulin or other diabetes medication, take their medication at the wrong time, or exercise too much.
Common Signs of Low Blood Glucose:
- Dizziness or shaking
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue or weakness
- Excessive sweating
- Nervousness or irritability
- Feelings of hunger
Responding to Low Blood Glucose
Under the guidance of your doctor, learn about the best way to manage a low blood glucose. Some things that have been recommended include:
- If the person has a glucose monitor, help them use it to check their blood glucose.
If levels are too low, bring the person something to boost their blood glucose:
- Three pieces of hard candy; OR
- Three glucose tablets; OR
- A small glass of orange juice; OR
- One tablespoon of sugar; OR
- Two-thirds of a soda (regular, not diet soda).
- It is important to treat low blood glucose quickly, because it can get worse and the person can pass out.
- If you are unable to test the person’s blood glucose levels, treat them for low blood glucose anyway!
All people with diabetes or pre-diabetes are at risk for experiencing high blood glucose. This can happen if their glucose levels are not sufficiently controlled with an individualized eating plan, exercise, or medication.
Common Signs of High Blood Glucose:
- Constant hunger or thirst
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue or weakness
- Dry skin
- Frequent urination
High blood glucose can be a medical emergency.
Responding to High Blood Glucose
- If possible, check the person’s blood glucose with a glucose monitor.
- Find out if the person has been following their individualized eating plan and taking their medication correctly.
- If there is no explanation for the high blood glucose (for example, missing a dose of medication or eating a sugary snack), contact the person’s doctor.
- Be sure you know if the doctor makes any changes to the person’s medication or treatment plan.
If you notice that someone you support is having difficulty keeping their blood glucose at the levels recommended by their physician, you may need to assist them with following their individualized eating plan, exercising, and taking their medication. If the person is following their doctor’s recommendations but still has high or low blood glucose, they need to see their doctor again, as soon as possible.