Support offered for diabetes patients

November is National Diabetes Month

— The number of people with diabetes in 1980 totaled 5.6 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In less than four decades that number has increased to more than 20 million.

Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic health care teams  are working with patients to help manage, control, and prevent diabetes and its consequences. 

Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly process glucose for use as energy. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose, or blood sugars, get into the cells of our bodies, in order to generate energy.

There are two types of diabetes. A diabetic person either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use their insulin. Type-1 Diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is the condition where your body will not make enough insulin and is rarer; about 5 percent of all diagnosed cases are deemed as Type-1 Diabetes.

“When a person has Type-1 Diabetes, they need insulin,” Lori Kelley, Senior Director of Quality at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic said.

A person with Type-2 Diabetes is still able to make insulin in the beginning stages, but their body is unable to properly metabolize the blood sugars or is resistant to insulin.

When glucose is not properly metabolized, it travels through the blood stream in concentrations that cause damage to the body. Complications from diabetes include a higher risk of heart disease, eye damage, kidney damage, nerve damage (neuropathy), and foot problems.

When glucose is not controlled, the long-term damages associated with Type-2 Diabetes can be severe and even fatal.

Some common symptoms of diabetes include dry mouth (feeling very thirsty), urinating frequently, and unexpected weight loss.

“Occasionally we will have patients who will be excited that they suddenly lost lots of weight when they weren’t trying to,” Kelley said. “But in reality, it’s a symptom of the onset of diabetes. The good news is, Type-2 Diabetes is treatable and controllable.”

Many facets go into the management of diabetes, and providers work together with the healthcare team to provide care and support for patients with diabetes at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic. 

“I really love the team approach we take here,” Kelley said.

Kelley said the team approach, known as the Patient Centered Medical Home model of care, to manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, begins with the front-desk receptionists and call center agents who call patients to remind them of their appointments.

Since diabetes can cause long-term issues with the eyes and feet, patients will also be scheduled for regular checkups like foot and eye exams. In addition, medical assistants are trained in giving a foot exam, and reporting back to the provider if they see any abnormalities. Medical assistants and nurses also help ensure the patient has the right medication and that those prescriptions are up-to-date.  Pharmacists assist with medications, teaching patients how to give themselves insulin if needed.

Most Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic medical sites have registered dietitians who meet with patients to discuss diet and nutrition. This is especially important for a patient with diabetes, where diet and exercise are vital to the management of the disease, Kelley said. 

Some patients find the diabetes diagnosis difficult to deal with. Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic also includes behavioral health counselors on site who can provide a brief intervention or consultation as a regular component of the patient’s visit.

With a team of medical, behavioral, and dietary professionals in their corner, diabetic patients are encouraged that beginning with a few small changes, the disease is manageable and controllable.

Kelley said when a patient first hears the diagnosis; they may not hear much else.

“So, we try not to overwhelm them, but start with just a few small changes,” she said.

“We focus on small changes, like increasing your activity level. I recommend patients start walking 15-20 minutes a day. Little by little I suggest working on getting that weight down and increasing physical activity, because blood sugars usually go down as the weight goes down.”


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