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Diabetes Educators: Resource for Diabetics With Medicare

Updated on July 27, 2014
Checking Blood Sugar Level
Checking Blood Sugar Level | Source

Diabetes Educators Teach Seniors About Diabetes

A dearly loved relative of mine was recently diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 76 and the following day I received a long distance call from his distraught wife, Betty.

"Please help us! Sam's been diagnosed with diabetes and we don't know what to do. The doctor gave him a prescription for a pill and a blood sugar machine and told him not to eat sweets but we don't know how to use the machine or what to do with the blood sugar results once we figure out how to use the machine. We also don't know what kind of diet he should be eating, what activities he can/ can not do, or the potential side effects of the new medication. Can you help us?"

I have many years of experience as a home care nurse instructing seniors in diabetic care, but I lived 1000 miles away from Betty and was feeling helpless about her pleas. I was also angry about the cavalier way that the doctor had treated Betty and Sam and was getting angrier by the minute.

"Didn't the doctor give Sam a written diet?"


"Do you know what Sam's blood sugar reading was?"

"350." (quite high).

"When is Sam's next appointment with the doctor?"

"Three months."

I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. Without proper instruction, Sam was at high risk of having high or low blood sugar reactions, either of which could become life threatening if both he and his wife did not understand what to do to prevent, recognize and treat them. Trying to keep the alarm out of my voice I said, "Sam needs to see a diabetes educator."

"A what?"

"A certified diabetes educator (CDE). It's a nurse, or in some cases a dietitian, pharmacist or social worker who has received specialized training in diabetes education and management and has passed a formal examination. Sam's medicare and medicare supplement insurance should cover the cost of a consultation and the educator will be able to contact Sam's doctor for specific orders and will then be able to answer all your questions."

"Where do I find a diabetes educator?"

"You can call the doctor's office and ask for a referral, or if he won't give you a referral you can call the American Diabetes Association (ADA) or your local hospital."

While still on the phone, I quickly logged onto my computer and found the name of a certified diabetic educator that was near Sam's house. As Betty wrote down the number, I was already starting to feel better because I knew that with comprehensive instruction and support the chances of Sam bringing his blood sugar levels down and preventing complications was good.

Learning How to Manage Diabetes

20.9% of all persons over the age of 60 suffer from diabetes. Because most seniors have friends or relatives who suffer from diabetes and know someone who has experienced diabetic complications, it is usually scary for an elderly person to hear his or her doctor say, "You have diabetes."

Also, many seniors have set routines and habits that may need to change in order for them to get their blood sugar levels under control and prevent complications. Certified diabetes educators can teach a newly diagnosed diabetic, or any diabetic currently experiencing difficulty with diabetic self-management the following information:

  • What diabetes is.
  • How to make changes in health habits.
  • How to use oral diabetes medication or how to inject diabetic medication such as insulin or byetta.
  • How to use a blood glucose monitor to check blood sugar levels.
  • How to keep track of blood sugar results.
  • The signs and symptoms of low and high blood sugar.
  • How to take care of an insulin reaction.
  • How to handle sick days.
  • What symptoms/ blood sugar levels to report to the doctor.
  • When to seek emergency medical assistance.
  • How to make dietary choices that adhere to the diet prescribed by the doctor.
  • How exercise/ activity levels affect diabetes.
  • How to care for their feet and to recognize diabetic foot ulcers.


The Diabetes Educator: Part of Health Care Team

In addition to a primary care provider and a certified diabetes educator, it may be necessary for a diabetic to see an endocrinologist (doctor who specializes in treating diabetes), eye doctor (because diabetes can affect the blood vessels in the eyes which can lead to blindness if untreated), podiatrist, and last but not least, a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist or marriage and family therapist to help with the emotional side of living with diabetes. Social workers can also help find medical and financial resources.

In summary, seeing a diabetes educator soon after the initial diagnosis is one of the most important things a senior can do to ensure they become educated in the self-management of their diabetes so they can prevent diabetic complications or at least receive treatment for complications as soon as possible.

Poll About Diabetes Educators

Before you read this article did you know what a certified diabetes educator was?

See results


Submit a Comment

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Audrey,

    I have no doubt that your positive nature and efforts to learn and utilize information about diabetes prevention will help you achieve positive outcomes in the long term.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Dear Gail - Thank you kindly for taking the time to send me this link and give me your opinion. I do feel much better emotionally after reading your comments and am positive I can avoid full blown diabetes. You're so giving and caring! Hugging you back!

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Audrey,

    I "hear" your concerns, especially in regards to the fact that your father and brother have both been diagnosed by diabetes.

    It may be prudent to follow the recommendations for someone who is pre-diabetic even if your most recent tests are inconclusive and that may be a question you can ask your doctor.

    The American Diabetes Association (ADA) website is a great place to get information about lifestyle changes that may help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. The issue of what to eat can be confusing so it's important to get good guidance. Try logging onto ADA's page for prevention/ prediabetes at this link:

    The page has information and additional links about good nutrition and exercise habits and how to implement their recommendations.

    Sometimes, relatively modest changes in diet and exercise can yield positive results. Once you're aware of the ADA recommendations, you can ask your doctor specific questions about personal goals in terms of blood sugar, weight, cholesterol levels, etc.

    Hope the above answer helps.

    Sending Hub Hugs and Positive Thoughts Your Way,


  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Hi Gail - I was just diagnosed with high blood sugar and asked my Doctor if I have diabetes. He said no. Then a follow up blood test indicated that I "may be" pre-diabetic. I can't seem to get a straight answer from him. My Father lost a leg to Diabetes and my brother has been diagnosed with it.

    I'm thinking of going on a strict diet to eliminate all sugars, most carbs, etc. What do you think Gail?

    Excellent information from you. Hope all is well and sending you a rainbow today!

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Vinaya,

    Glad to hear you found it useful enough to pass information onto your extended family and thank you for taking time to give me feedback that lets me know writing a hub like this is worthwhile.

  • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

    Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

    There are few diabetes in my extended family. These point will surely help them.

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Ubanichijioke,

    Thanks for your compassionate and kind comment which is right on target.

    Your feedback and ongoing support is greatly appreciated.

  • ubanichijioke profile image

    Alexander Thandi Ubani 6 years ago from Lagos

    A wonderful and inspiring piece. Well informed and educative. Diabetics is a serious disease that requires care, attention and love shown to the sufferers. A great piece

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

    Thanks for stopping by frogyfish.

    I appreciate you taking time to leave a comment and am glad you found the tips useful.

  • frogyfish profile image

    frogyfish 6 years ago from Central United States of America

    There is wa-ay too much of that doctor UNexplaining stuff around. But thanks for your giddy-up and go and giving us all these tips/info!

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

    Thank you, Peggy, for noticing and for supporting my writing efforts. I always look forward to your comments and feedback.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

    You do put so much time and effort into educating people about important subjects like diabetes and more. Thanks again for all of your efforts!

  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

    You are a wonderful nurse educator and help so many people, Gail, with your knowledge. Well done on this hub. If I could be half as good as you regarding health information I would be very pleased. Thanks for sharing.

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Kim,

    Sorry to hear about your Mom. Loss of a parent is always difficult.

    Glad you found the video useful and that you're already eating that way at work. As you well know, awareness of our own actions is key to making changes.

    Responsiveness is a two-way street. I'm always touched when a reader like yourself puts so much thought into a comment. The interactions are what makes writing on HubPages so rewarding and exciting. Thanks for following my work. I really appreciate it and I love reading your hubs, too.

  • kimh039 profile image

    Kim Harris 7 years ago

    No, she died in 09. Yes and no re her care - she had a lot of conditions and was getting excellent care for those, but ultimately an infection from the nursing home - sepsis and c diff - took her.

    I checked out that new video. I really like the way that explains the diet....and that would be way easier to follow than counting calories. I think the cafeteria at work uses that plan! I'm amazed at how they "sneak" vegetables and fruit into the meal in a delicious way! So, I get one very healthy meal each day! I was getting my 20 min walk in, but have been slacking!

    You are so responsive to your readers, HBN. Thanks.

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

    Thanks Kim.

    You're wise to start making changes in your lifestyle that will reduce your risk of diabetes. Even simple things like adding 20 to 30 minutes of daily walking during lunch or break times can be effective for weight control. Keep in mind that even a modest weight loss can help prevent the onset of diabetes so small changes in your daily dietary habits that you can adhere to may be all you need to do to help yourself stay healthy. I added a short video to the resources section of this hub which shows a simple, effective method of choosing quality foods in healthy portions without having to strictly count calories and carbohydrates.

    Sorry to hear that your Mom had complictions from her diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause changes in the blood vessels throughout the body including the legs and it can also cause nerve damage in the feet and legs. Is your Mom still living? And if so, is she getting the care she needs?

  • kimh039 profile image

    Kim Harris 7 years ago

    Thanks HBN for the information on diabetes. My mom had diabetes, and I thought she knew what she was doing because she took her pills and checked her levels and wrote down the results. I didn't realize until later that she didn't understand what the numbers meant! I was asking her questions about what's too high and too low, and what do you do if it's too high or too low. She didn't have a clue!

    She developed "dropped foot" that is supposed to be from diabetes too. Then she started losing feeling in her feet. I don't really understand how glucose levels can effect your feet, but I'm trying to understand it better because I'm now at higher risk since I've gained weight!

    This hub was very helpful. You had a lot of good information, and you made it easy to understand. I liked the video, but I'm terrible about following specific diets!

    Your family members were lucky to have you to call on when they needed. It sounded like they knew it was serious, but didn't know what to do. Sometimes, my mom couldn't understand or remember what the dr told her, and sometimes I think her Dr just didn't want to "waste his time" explaining - knowing she wouldn't understand or remember.

    Thanks so much, HBN, for a valuable and informative hub, on a topic that effects or will effect a lot of us!

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi Paul Profitt,

    Thanks for taking time to read and comment on my hub.

    Sorry to hear that it's often a matter of luck to get good care in the UK.

    There are many excellent health care providers in the USA but unfortunately there are also some who give below standard care. I just like to educate people about their options and I will encourage them to find another health care provider if I beleive they aren't getting quality care.

  • Paul Profitt profile image

    Paul Profitt 7 years ago from England

    I don't know about in the USA, but the level of care and attention you can expect in Hospitals in the UK.

    Whether you suffer from diabetes or anything else.

    Especially on the NHS. (National Health Service) is down to pure luck more than anything else.

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

    Thanks Peggy,

    I did think it was shameful. I know doctors don't have much time to spend with patients but he could have instructed staff to give my relative referral information about a diabetes educator.

    Thanks so much for passing this information forward. Seniors need to know they can ask for this kind of one on one instruction and that it's covered by Medicare.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

    That is shameful that the doctor treated your relative in such a cavalier and dismissive way! Thank heavens you were there even if long distance to help them. Hopefully many people will read this and pass it along to others so that more people know of this kind of help. Voting this up and useful and will tweet this to help spread the word.

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

    Thank you Katiem2 for your compassionate and loving comment!

    Yes, changing lifetime dietary and exercise habits as a senior citizen is challenging and additional support and education is very helpful.

    I just want people to know help is out there and generally covered by medicare and/or other insurance.

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

    I had no idea and thank you. To think of an elder person facing a diabetes diagnoses after a life of eating habits being formed, oh how difficult. Thank you for the helpful resource and blessing to you and your elder relative. Peace, Love and Joy :)

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

    Hi DeBorrah K. Ogans,

    I pray that the information will indeed help and encourage the older couple that you mentioned and I thank you for taking the time to leave a comment letting me know that you found this hub helpful and informative.

  • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

    DeBorrah K Ogans 7 years ago

    HappyBoomerNurse, This is Great and Informative as well as right on time... I know an older couple and her husband is in his eighties and has just been diagnosed with diabetes this will be most helpful and encouraging!

    Thank you for sharing, In HIS Love, Grace, Peace, Joy, & Blessings!


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