Having a team of people to help you manage your diabetes is key to success and stressing less.

Jessica Migala
August 31, 2020
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Living with diabetes isn't always easy—but it can be easier if you have a team of people in your corner. Those are your support people, the doctors, diabetes educators and peers who will lift you up and help you be your healthiest self.

"When it comes to diabetes management, you are the CEO of your own body," says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet and the YouTube channel, Healthy Mom Happy Family. "Just like a CEO cannot run a successful company alone, you need a team in place to help you achieve your best health," she says. When you assemble a care team, you can better manage your diabetes long term and reduce the risk of complications.

What's more, burnout as a person with diabetes is real. It comes from the constant call to test and manage your blood sugar, watch what you eat and remember to take your medications, all of which can be tiring. "When you have a chronic illness, you can't just take a pill and be 'cured.' You are managing the condition for life, and looking at the long-term picture can feel exhausting," says Palinski-Wade.

Who to include on your team

Assembling your care team—and then calling on them regularly—can reduce the risk of burnout and ensure that you continue to take care of yourself even when the days get tough. Here's who you can "recruit."

Your primacy care physician and/or endocrinologist

Your doctor is probably the first call you make when you have a question about your medication or how to manage a side effect. Still, make sure you're seeing them at least once every three months to talk about specific diabetes issues and ensure that you're on track to meet your goals, says Palinski-Wade. Don't count on squeezing diabetes-related questions into a regular visit you have because you have a problem (a bout of vertigo, a twitching eye, a mysterious rash), but make sure you have dedicated time to discuss your diabetes.

A registered dietitian or certified diabetes care and education specialist

A registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) can provide more personalized, regular care when it comes to diet habits and food choices, as well as general diabetes education. "For a PWD, not only can the idea of making lifestyle changes feel overwhelming, but there is the added issue of being faced with nonstop conflicting messages regarding how to eat with diabetes," says Palinski-Wade.

A dietitian or diabetes educator can talk to you about a meal plan, how to navigate different diets in your household and how to avoid being overly restrictive. In addition, says Palinski-Wade, you may feel pressure to completely overhaul your diet all at once, but that's a recipe for burnout, too. "If you focus on small, achievable changes you can make consistently over time, you can improve glucose management without feeling overwhelmed," she says. The dietitian on your team is here to take you though that process, build your confidence and help you navigate (and solve) sources of frustration.

Medical specialists

Diabetes can lead to certain complications, such as with foot health (neuropathy, skin infections) and vision health (like retinopathy). For that reason, Palinski-Wade recommends having a regular eye doctor and podiatrist who can guide you on how often you need to come in. For instance, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that patients with type 2 diabetes should have a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at the time of diagnosis and then, if everything looks healthy, every two years.

A therapist

"There can be an emotional burden involved with managing a chronic disease," says Palinski-Wade. Finding one who specializes in treating PWDs is important—you'll need someone who understands the nuances of what you're going through and how easy it can be to burn out. To find a mental health provider in your area, the ADA has a great tool on their website here, which will lead you to find qualified professionals.

Peer support

You'll want to find like-minded people who get you and what you're going through managing a chronic condition. The ADA has a community page with a discussion board for people with type 1, type 2 or prediabetes.

Bottom line

There are so many people available to you to help you along on your diabetes journey and make this a really positive, healthy time in your life. While the internet and social media offer a lot of resources, make sure that the source of that info comes from a professional in diabetes management. "Before changing your lifestyle or your meal plan, always discuss the information you find with your diabetes care team. They know your individual health needs and goals and can help you make the most informed decision for you," says Palinski-Wade.