Sometimes, living with diabetes can seem like a full-time job -- trying to keep up with everything you need to do for proper diabetes care.
"Diabetes is a very time-consuming disease to manage well," says Karmeen Kulkarni, MS, RD, CDE, and former president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. "The medication, the food, the physical activity -- you add life in general to that whole picture and it ends up being quite challenging."
Time-Saving Diabetes Care Tips
Kulkarni and other experts shared these tips with WebMD to help you get organized and manage your time while keeping up with all your diabetes care duties.
- Use a datebook, Palm Pilot, or other scheduling system to write in times for important diabetes care tasks, such as checking your blood sugar, taking medications, exercising, and doctor’s appointments.
- Reinforce your diabetes care schedule by putting up sticky notes or other messages as reminders. "The more reminders around the home or office, the better," Kulkarni says.
- Keep all your medications, needles, test strips and other supplies in one place in your home. That way, you won’t waste time looking for things. And you’ll see at a glance which supplies are running low. Don’t wait until the last minute to get new supplies.
- Take a diabetes care "travel kit" whenever you leave the house, not just when you’re on vacation. Pack the kit with all of your medical supplies, snacks, and water. Don't forget to include glucose tablets or hard candy in case you have low blood sugar. "Whenever you leave home, you could be caught in a situation where your blood sugar drops, and you’re in an emergency situation," says Pamela F. Kelly, a Chicago consultant who has counseled people with diabetes on managing their time.
- If you’re struggling to manage your diabetes, find a care partner, such as a spouse or friend. "People with diabetes a lot of times will get very sad or depressed. Either they’re not managing their diabetes at all, or they’re having a tough time because it’s a constant struggle," Kelly says. A care partner can help. "They’ll understand your situation, your medication, any other diseases you have," Kelly says. "They’ll understand what to look for and how to help you."
These days, doctors’ visits can be quick, 15-minute sessions. The key to getting the most from your appointment: plan ahead.
- Write a list of questions and concerns before your visit so you don’t forget anything important. Do you have any new symptoms? Have you had trouble with low blood sugar? Do you have questions about foods or medications? Be your own advocate. "You shouldn’t take for granted that your provider’s going to cover anything," says Andrea Zaldivar, MS, C-ANP, CDE, clinical director at North General Diagnostic and Treatment Center.
- Bring all of your medications in a bag for your doctor to review. Include your diabetes drugs and those for other health conditions.
- When you talk with your doctor, mention your top concerns first. Don’t save them for last, or you may not have time to address them adequately.
- Write down what your doctor says so that you can remember the instructions. Or bring a friend or relative to help take notes.
With today’s busy schedules, it’s hard for everybody -- not just those with diabetes -- to find enough time to prepare healthy meals and snacks. Some pointers:
- Keep the right foods on hand. "Most of us, research shows, eat about the same 100 foods most of the time," Kulkarni says. "Be familiar with those foods, and have a balance in terms of nutrition." For example, keep whole-grain breads, cereal, milk, vegetables and fruit well-stocked in your home.
- Find easy, diabetes-friendly recipes that take less than 30 minutes to prepare. Diabetes cookbooks can help.
- Buy bagged broccoli, bagged lettuce, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes to cut down on chopping and preparation time.
- Stock your pantry with commonly used ingredients, such as low-sodium broth, whole-grain pastas, and lentils. "If you’ve got basic ingredients, you can always throw something together," Kulkarni says.
- Consult with a registered dietitian about your diet. Ask him or her to teach you how to read food labels so that you can evaluate convenience foods to make sure they’re not too high in carbohydrates, salt, or fat.
Many a diabetes educator who talks to clients about exercise hears this refrain: "I just don’t have the time." Yet exercise is crucial for improving blood glucose control and controlling weight. Some ways to fit exercise in:
- Look closely for opportunities to exercise in your daily schedule. "Try to find pockets of time. Do you have 15 minutes here or 10 minutes there?" Kulkarni says. Go for a walk or climb stairs at work during those short snatches of time. "It doesn’t have to be a whole hour block in one day. Nobody seems to have that kind of time."
- Use the buddy system. If you plan to meet three or four times a week with someone to exercise, "there’s some accountability there," Kulkarni says.
- Work with a personal trainer. The appointment is scheduled, and because you’re paying for the session, you’re less likely to skip out of exercising.