The Organized Diabetic
Keeping blood sugar levels in-check is easier for those with who live a more structured life.
Pam Kelly is a Dyer, Ind.-based professional organizer with an unusual niche – helping people with diabetes manage their health better through organization.
Diabetes is a complicated disease caused by environment, lifestyle and genetics. Patients can’t change genetics, but they can take charge of their environment and lifestyle.
“When people are diagnosed with diabetes, it means they have to do several things differently from that point forward,” Kelly says.
- Test glucose blood levels and take medications consistently
- Eat at regular times and have the right foods and snacks always at the ready
- Exercise routinely
- Keep lab results and other paperwork organized and up-to-date
- See a number of healthcare providers
Patients are usually sent to a “diabetes self-management” class, which can be overwhelming, says Kelly: “They tell you all these things to do, but not how to get it done.”
That’s where organization comes in. “Everyone with diabetes can do better if they’re organized,” says Dr. Supneet Saluja, an endocrinologist in Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
Diabetes is a challenging disease to manage. A number of factors, including meals and activities, can affect blood sugar and health status from day to day, so Saluja advises patients to keep a glucose log and food diary and be on the lookout for patterns.
Blood sugar, carb counts, recipes, shopping lists and food reactions can be tracked in smartphone apps, spreadsheets, inspirational journals or old-school notebooks. “It depends on whether you’re an electronic person or a paper person,” Kelly says. “There is no one system.”
Managing diabetes through organization is not just about scheduling but also how things are set up at home. Kelly organized a household where boxes of supplies and medications were stacked right inside the front door. By immediately unpacking test strips and other supplies and storing them in one place, her client is less likely to overbuy or run out.
While the doorway is not a good long-term storage option, “out of sight, out of mind” is a common problem in diabetes management.
“Every single day, patients tell me they have forgotten to test their blood sugar, record their results or even bring their glucometers with them to work,” says Kelly O’Connor, a registered dietician at Mercy Medical Center. “Many forget to take their medications and insulin once or more during a normal day.”
She recommends they put their glucometer, log book, pen, and perhaps their morning medication or insulin dose in a small basket or container in the kitchen or bathroom where it won’t be missed first thing in the morning. “If you normally head straight for the coffee pot, put the basket next to it,” O’Connor says.
Set up a pill reminder system to take meds throughout the day. Smartphone can sound an alarm at the appointed time. An ordinary pillbox or programmable electronic dispenser helps ensure patients don’t accidentally skip or double up on a dose.
Plan a week’s worth of menus at a time and keep a running shopping list so grocery trips are more efficient. Wash produce and “pre-portion” items purchased in bulk before putting them away.
For lab results and related paperwork, “some patients prefer the old-fashioned three-ring binder with pockets so they can carry it with them to each appointment,” O’Connor says.
In the front of that binder, and on the fridge, the mirror and in your head, “Record your mission statement – what you want your life to be about,” Kelly says. “You need to do things differently, but if you’re driven by a mission, you can create a sense of purpose and not feel so overwhelmed.
“The earlier you get on top of diabetes management, the better your long-term outcome.”
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