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Ever feel overwhelmed with diabetes, frustrated with your numbers, or confused about what you can and can't eat? That's where diabetes educators come in. Diabetes educators can help you gain the knowledge and skills needed to manage the disease, help you set goals, and then provide you with the support you need to reach them.
A certified diabetes educator (CDE) can be a nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, or social worker who works with you one-on-one or in a group setting to help you:
• Improve your A1C
• Prevent diabetes complications or slow their progression
• Improve your eating and exercise habits
• Gain more confidence in taking care of your diabetes
• Learn how to manage stress related to living with diabetes
• Manage your medications and any side effects
Studies show that diabetes education has many benefits, yet just a small percentage of PWDs take advantage of it.
• PWDs who received diabetes education had 39% lower average annual health care costs compared to those who did not.
• PWDs reduced their A1C levels by an average of 1.1% with diabetes education.
• Only 5% of PWDs on Medicare used this service during their first year after diagnosis, despite the fact that this service is a covered benefit.
Working with a diabetes educator at any point in time can be helpful, but a visit may benefit you most at these times:
• At diagnosis. This is an essential time to obtain the basic skills and knowledge to manage your diabetes and stay physically and emotionally healthy.
• Each year. Diabetes changes over time and so do your needs. Once a year, it's important to brush up on skills and knowledge, learn about new management tools, and go over any struggles.
• After major changes in your life. Changes in your physical or mental health, financial state, or relationships may call for tweaks to your management plan and extra support from an educator.
• When your medical care changes. An educator can help support and guide you through transitions such as seeing a new doctor, dealing with different insurance coverage, adding or changing medications, or adjusting to a new living situation. Consider seeing a CDE when you start or change injectable medications.
Medicare covers up to 10 education hours and 3 medical nutrition therapy (MNT) hours at time of diagnosis. After that, PWDs get 2 hours of education and 2 hours of MNT yearly. (Medicare coverage requires a referral from a doctor, so be sure to ask for one before finding an educator.)
Private insurance coverage varies by state and provider, so call your insurance's customer service line and ask about the diabetes self-management education available to you. At least 43 states require insurance plans to provide some sort of coverage for diabetes education, according to the Policy Surveillance Program at Temple University.
Don't have insurance? Reach out to an educator—the cost may be more manageable than you think.
To find an accredited program near you, call your local ADA office or visit diabeteseducator.org/living-with-diabetes/find-an-education-program or professional.diabetes.org/erp_list_zip.