November is National Diabetes Month and the 2023 theme, “Take Charge of Tomorrow: Preventing Diabetes Health Problems”, is one I love and agree with!
I will even go one step further and propose a response – add OT to every healthcare team treating diabetes.
Diabetic patients are asked to make significant changes in the way they care for themselves. From learning medication management and health monitoring to adding exercise routines and even accessing and prepping healthier food, occupations have to be supported. OT is valuable for helping patients deliberately build a regime of care that supports their new goals. OT often treats the result of uncontrolled diabetes, but OT is critically valuable in preventative care, too.
The control of this disease is important! Earlier this year, The Lancet estimated a staggering 1.31 billion people will be living with the diabetes worldwide by 2060. Diabetes is a major contributor to blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation as well as increased mortality.
Can OT make a difference? Just google “OT and diabetes” to scroll through a number of studies evaluating the role of OT in diabetic care across a variety of settings and populations: rural populations, telehealth, group settings, young adults and primary care. All demonstrate OT has a positive impact on health outcomes for these patients.
OT supports patients as they cultivate the habits and routines important to controlling diabetes by assessing patients with a holistic lens across ADLs and IDALs. What are the patient’s goals? What are the barriers? What are the strengths? What can be changed or adapted? What is possible?
OT works with patients across self-care, productivity and leisure activities to help establish and strengthen their skills in monitoring, problem solving, goal setting, and organizing. Some specific area of focus and care around diabetes includes:
- Recommend or provide adaptive equipment
- Instruct in foot care and safety
- Reinforce healthy eating while planning and preparing meals
- Instruct in pacing and energy conservation
- Teach compensatory techniques and safety measures for sensory deficits: skin checks, preventing sunburn and frostbite, avoiding cuts and burns
- Provide compensation techniques and adaptive devices for vison loss, sensory loss and or one-handed use: filling syringes, taking oral meds, monitoring glucose, measuring portions
- Instruct in individualized exercise programs to address endurance, strength and flexibility with the goal of lower blood sugar, improved insulin sensitivity and strengthening of the heart
- Teach strategies to incorporate wellness and health management routines into daily activities
Of course, OT is still critically important in the treatment of conditions co-occurring with diabetes including retinopathy, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, PVD, stroke, peripheral neuropathy, amputations, and diabetic hand/shoulder syndrome but the role of the OT in prevention could be the most valuable.
So raise awareness of OT’s role in managing diabetes. Talk to your team, host an in-service, volunteer at a clinic or pursue a Board Certification as a diabetes educator. Fighting the impact of this disease will take everyone on the healthcare team including OT.