When people are diagnosed with diabetes they sustain two powerful body blows; the first is from the disease itself and the second is from its cost. Successful management of either one of those things often depends on connecting with people who know what diabetes is all about; not just for the individual with diabetes, but for the spouse and family too.
One of those folks is Holly Wetz, RN, CDE (Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator) at the St. Joseph’s Hospital Outpatient Diabetes Center in Tampa.
“A lot of times with the economy being the way it is, many people are not going to their primary care doctor on a regular basis and often that’s because people have lost their health insurance. We are seeing more of that and more people are going to community health centers,” said Wetz. “Many people are not getting regular follow-up because they are uninsured, or, just not aware of the resources or alternative medical care that’s available.”
“We try to give people the best information and find the lowest cost for them,” Wetz added. “A lot of insurance companies have a preferred blood glucose meter. We try to find out for them and give tips on maximizing their benefits and we also make sure the doctor writes the prescription so that they get enough test strips so they have enough to stay on top of it.” Wetz noted, for instance, that the Walmart brand monitor (and test strips) is less expensive than many of the name brand monitors and just as efficient.
“We encourage people to test their blood glucose regularly and get the monitor they need because we understand the economics too,” she added.
“We’re looking at a lot of things,” Wetz explains. “A lot of people walking around have diabetes and they don’t know they have it, or they can have ‘pre-diabetes’ and they’re not aware. We’re trying to raise awareness.”
“Whe we see them at the outpatient center, sometimes people call in because they do have certain symptoms and depending on what they communicate to us we’ll encourage them to see their physician or go to the emergency room. We offer classes each week and when they come to a class we encourage them to bring a family member. Very often when a person is first diagnosed they’re really stressed and it’s important for a family member to be there for support. Type II diabetes does run in families so we’ll recommend that family members get tested and screened for diabetes too.”
Wetz noted that St. Joseph’s Hospital diabetes program offers a practical diabetes screening tool on its own website: http://www.sjbhealth.org/body.cfm?id=609 and offers proactive outreach. “We volunteer at community health fairs; senior programs and go out as a public service to do risk assessments and free screenings. We’ll do blood work and if we do notice that the blood sugar is elevated above normal we contact their physician and make sure they get taken care of.”
While diabetes patients are often frustrated in trying to regulate their numbers successfully Wetz said that patients can benefit greatly if they can give diabetes experts a clear picture of what’s going on throughout the day. “We look at exercise, nutrition, diet, medication and we recommend monitoring at different times of the day. That’s important when the doctor is trying to make adjustments to insulin dosages or other medications,” said Wetz.
Wetz encourages people with questions to attend classes at the Diabetes Outpatient Center, 3001 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., Tampa, or St. Joseph’s North at 4211 Van Dyke Road, Lutz. “When people come to class we go over how to use the information; the readings from their monitors, when they might want to test and what that information will tell them.”
For Wetz, it’s rewarding to help empower people with information and she enjoys correcting some of the widely held ‘myths’. One such misperception, she says is that there’s a ‘diabetes diet.’ “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change; it’s more about making healthier choices.”