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10 tips for navigating diabetes education

If you’ve just been recently diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, consider looking for Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) training near you. This will help you learn all about your diabetes and how to monitor and control your blood sugars day to day through self-care skills like healthy eating and being active. Decades of research show self-managing your diabetes reduces complications and emergencies down the road.

Related: Are you prepared for a diabetes emergency?

Here are 10 simple questions you might ask your primary care provider or endocrinologist at your next appointment to make sure you get the education you need to empower you for healthy living.

But what exactly should you be looking for — realistically — in a diabetes education program?

Are these classes certified?

Only classes certified by either the American Diabetes Association (ADA) or the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) are recognized as meeting all national standards for effective diabetes self-care training. That doesn’t mean support outside of these options isn’t also helpful, but these certified courses have a seal of approval.

Are the classes taught by Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE)?

This additional board license for heathcare providers, like registered dietitians and nurses, is still the gold standard for ensuring you’re getting the highest quality teaching and coaching in diabetes self-care.

Are the classes covered by my insurance provider or Medicare?

On diagnosis, Medicare covers up to 10 hours of diabetes self-management education and up to two hours of follow-up every year after that. Most states also now require all public and private health insurance plans to cover diabetes self-management education.

Talk to your insurance provider about your specific coverage.

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Are there group and one-on-one options?

Self-care training can be delivered in a variety of comparably effective forms. Group-based education is more widespread because it’s more cost effective, and often preferred because it allows you to meet and hear from others living with diabetes.

Do the educators use a standard curriculum?

While the basic self-care skills for your diabetes are the same, recognized curricula like the International Diabetes Center BASICS Diabetes Curriculum are based on the latest clinical science. They also come with a guide for you to take home and will be customized by your educators working closely with you to fit your lifestyle, personal preferences, health history, medications and goals. One size of training won’t fit everyone.

Do the classes have a successful track record?

You’ll want to know that your educators are tracking, recording as part of your permanent medical record, and sharing with you and your primary healthcare provider how you’re doing as a result of classes, including:

  • What topical areas about diabetes and diabetes self-care you’ve learned
  • Which areas you might need more time on
  • What your A1C blood glucose levels and other key medical indicators mean
  • How you’re progressing on meeting your particular self-care behavioral goals like following a food plan.

Certified programs must maintain results demonstrating their effectiveness.

Are the classes at convenient times and locations?

With families, work schedules or other personal responsibilities, programs offering different days and times every week, as well as different locations for training, can make it easier.

Can I bring along a family member with me?

Many programs encourage this, as having an informed personal support system is shown to help you stay on track with your daily self-care.

“One of the best ways to predict how well someone will manage their diabetes: how much support they get from family and friends.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Is there a free diabetes support group available?

Regularly connecting with others living with diabetes and hearing hosted healthcare experts on the latest diabetes topics, trends and treatments are great ways to keep you encouraged, motivated and current on diabetes best practices.

Related: Why I’m thankful for type 1 diabetes

Will you refer me to these classes?

Attending diabetes self-management education requires your healthcare provider to write you a formal referral to classes. It’s easy — simply ask your provider for one or contact a diabetes educator to assist you.

Diabetes education works. Get connected with diabetes education and support near you.

About the author

Lynn McLellan, RD, CDCES
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Lynn McLellan is a registered dietician, certified diabetes care and education specialist and the current coordinator for the Diabetes Self-Management Education program at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple. The program launched in 1981 and is now among the longest running, ADA-certified diabetes education classes in the U.S. The program also hosts a free monthly diabetes support group open to the community.

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10 tips for navigating diabetes education