Diabetes is a common medical condition within the community. Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes with 280 Australians developing diabetes every day, that is one person every five minutes. Many of our Five Good Friends members live with a type of diabetes. If you are matched with a Member with a diabetes diagnosis or are interested in developing your professional knowledge, we encourage you to educate yourself with the below resources so you can best support your Members.
Below information sourced from Diabetes Australia
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious complex condition which can affect the entire body. Diabetes requires daily self care and if complications develop, diabetes can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy. While there is currently no cure for diabetes, those living with diabetes can live an enjoyable life by learning about the condition and effectively managing it. Diabetes does not discriminate, anyone can develop diabetes
There are different types of diabetes; all types are complex and serious. Click on the below links to learn more about the three main types:
How does diabetes affect the body?
When a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a form of sugar which is the main source of energy for our bodies. Unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to long term and short term health complications.
For our bodies to work properly we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. A hormone called insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy. In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body. When people with diabetes eat glucose, which is in foods such as breads, cereals, fruit and starchy vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and sweets, it can’t be converted into energy.
Instead of being turned into energy the glucose stays in the blood resulting in high blood glucose levels. After eating, the glucose is carried around your body in your blood. Blood glucose levels can be monitored and managed through self care and treatment.
How is diabetes managed?
Depending on the type of diabetes and the person's individual health and needs there are many ways in which diabetes may be managed in consultation with health professionals, including:
- Insulin replacement through insulin injections or use of an insulin pump
- Monitoring of blood glucose levels regularly
- Following a healthy diet and eating plan
- Regular exercise
- Glucose-lowering medications
How may I need to support my Members?
If you are matched with a Member living with diabetes it is important to thoroughly read and be guided by their Help Plan in the app. Some Members may manage their diabetes entirely independently and not require any support from Helpers. Other Members may require some assistance with monitoring and recording their blood glucose levels, helping identify/treat hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia shopping for and preparing healthy meals and support with exercise. It is important to note Helpers cannot administer insulin or assist with injections.
Having a healthy diet and being active is an important part of managing diabetes because it can help manage blood glucose levels and body weight. Everyone's needs are different, there is no one diet that fits all, however here are some general resources around healthy eating for people living with diabetes.
- Diabetes - what should I eat?
- Healthy Eating - a guide for older people living with diabetes
- Understanding Food labels
- Carbohydrate Counting
- Eating out
- Healthy Meal Ideas
Everybody benefits from regular exercise. If a person has diabetes, or is at risk of developing diabetes it plays an important role in keeping healthy. Benefits include maintaining health weight, lowering blood pressure, reducing risk of heart disease, lowering blood glucose levels and reducing stress.
Blood Glucose Monitoring
One of the main aims of diabetes treatment is to keep blood glucose levels within a specified target range. The key is balancing food with activity, lifestyle and diabetes medicines. Keeping blood glucose levels within a target range can help reduce a person's risk of developing a range of diabetes-related complications.
The number of times people with diabetes who use insulin will check their blood glucose levels varies according to a number of factors. People with type 2 diabetes who are not using insulin may not need to check their blood glucose levels as regularly.
Part of your Member's Help Plan may include assisting them to test their blood glucose levels, identify any actions as per the Help Plan and record the results. Before assisting a member with glucose testing someone from the Five Good Friends team will provide training and you will complete a competency assessment prior to providing this service independently.
Hyperglycaemia and Hypoglycaemia awareness
Understanding these conditions is an important part of supporting a member living with diabetes. If a person is experiencing very low or high blood glucose levels this can lead to confusion and impact their ability to identify their level is outside the normal range and treat accordingly.
Hyperglycaemia means high blood glucose level.
- Feeling excessively thirsty
- Frequently passing large volumes of urine
- Feeling tired
- Blurred vision
- Infections (e.g. thrush, cystitis, wound infections)
- Weight loss.
- Sickness or infection
- Too much carbohydrate food at once
- Not enough insulin or diabetes tablets
- Other tablets or medicines.
Read further information here
Hypoglycaemia, sometimes called a hypo or low, is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose level has dropped too low symptoms of hypoglycaemia vary from person to person.
For a comprehensive overview of Hypoglycaemia read our guide prepared by our Community Nursing Lead Amos Sharan here.
Early signs and symptoms may include:
- Shaking, trembling or weakness
- Light headedness, dizzy, headache
- Pins and needles around mouth
- Mood change
If the BGL continues to drop, more serious signs and symptoms may occur.
- Lack of concentration/ behaviour change
- Slurred speech
- Not able to treat own hypo
- Not able to drink or swallow
- Not able to follow instructions
- Loss of consciousness
- Too much insulin or other glucose lowering diabetes tablets
- Delaying, missing a meal, Not eating enough carbohydrate
- Unplanned or more strenuous physical activity than usual*
- Drinking alcohol
Read further information here
Annual Cycle of Care
The diabetes annual cycle of care is a checklist for reviewing a person's diabetes management and general health. A GP will do this review to help the person and their diabetes health care team manage their diabetes, and to reduce risk of diabetes-related complications. It’s important to do an annual cycle of care to identify any health concerns early and discuss the best treatments. Without regular checks, diabetes can lead to complications such as damage to the kidneys, eyes, feet, nerves and heart.
A Member may require support with booking some of their annual check-ups and transport to appointments.
According to Diabetes Australia, up to 50% of people with diabetes are thought to also have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety. This compares to approximately 20% of the general population who are thought to experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. Diabetes can be tough to live with, the constant need to be careful with foods, check blood glucose levels and take insulin can be emotionally draining and increase the risk of burnout and developing a mental illness. If you have concerns about a member's mental health well-being please note your observations in the FGF App and contact their Care Manager.
Further education and online courses
There are many resources available if you wish to further your education regarding diabetes.
Visit Diabetes Australia's website for a comprehensive list.