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World Health Day 2016: Talking About Diabetes With Your Patients

The World Health Organization has declared April 7th, World Health Day with this year’s focus on halting the worldwide Diabetes epidemic.  This call for action on diabetes is an effort to educate and highlight the need for nations around the world to increase efforts to prevent and treat the disease. 
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The World Health Organization has declared April 7th, World Health Day with this year’s focus on halting the worldwide Diabetes epidemic.  This call for action on diabetes is an effort to educate and highlight the need for nations around the world to increase efforts to prevent and treat the disease.  Today, more than 422 million people adults are living with diabetes.

The first step towards addressing the diabetes epidemic is to educate the public about the disease, its debilitating impact, and how it can be prevented in many cases through a healthier diet and lifestyle, along with regular screening for early detection.  There are many symptoms of diabetes; however, some are so mild that they go unnoticed.

Common Diabetes Symptoms:

  • Frequent Urination
  • Feeling extremely thirsty and hungry, even though you are eating normally
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Tingling/pain in the hands and feet

Other less common symptoms include wounds that won’t heal or are slow to heal, frequent Urinary Tract Infections, frequent nausea or vomiting.

Diabetes is a disease that requires a full “team effort” to treat and manage the complications with the most important component of the treatment team being the patient themselves.  That being the case, involving, engaging and communicating with the patient is one of the most important aspects of care.

Let’s take a look at several important ways that a diabetes patient can be engaged in the treatment of his or her disease:

Make your patient feel supported.  Often, patients with diabetes feel reluctant to fully share information with their healthcare professional.  Their perception is that they will be scolded or judged if they reveal too much information about any setbacks they are having.  It is critical to understand that the patient may have that perception and to do everything possible to cultivate a supportive environment and establish a trusting rapport.  Patients who feel supported will be more motivated to engage in their own treatment plan.

Listen, Listen, Listen.  A key component of establishing trust and rapport is by asking open-ended questions and listening.  While healthcare professionals truly care about the well-being of their patient, they may have an automatic impulse to correct or interject at the first negative piece of information.  This “reflex” not only interrupts the conversation, but it may also get in the way of drawing out more helpful information.  Active Listening will establish trust and lead to more fruitful conversations and a more engaged patient.

Flip the script.  While time is often at a premium during a diabetic counselling session, it can be difficult to get through all of the required information that you are trying to gather.  All of this while working on supporting and engaging your patient in the process.  Sometimes, it can be helpful to change your approach and empower your patient and cede control of the appointment to them.  Consider asking your patient, “What is the best use of our time today?” or “What would you like to work on today?”  This simple flip completely changes the power dynamic in the room and empowers your patient as an “expert” in their care.  You can still influence the direction of the session to glean important information, but doing it subtly lets the patient feel in control.

Negotiate reasonable goals.  As in most things in life, people want to be successful.  With the treatment for diabetes including lifestyle changes, it is unrealistic to set a litany of goals for the patient to accomplish.  Lose weight, exercise 4-5 times per week, eliminate sodas from your diet, etc., etc., etc. While all of these changes need to be implemented into the treatment plan, it cannot and will not happen overnight.  More importantly, set the patient up for short term successes, building up their confidence as they successfully achieve each milestone.  There will be times where you need to adjust.  For example by asking, “I know this is difficult, what baby steps can you take to get us closer to tackling this?”  Treat it as a partnership and the patient will experience more positives outcomes than setbacks.

Patient communication is key to everything that we do as healthcare professionals.  Tell us your thoughts on how best to communicate with your patients who are battling diabetes.  Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below or visit our Facebook page.