ACCORDING TO DATA FROM THE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the country’s seventh leading cause of death. While 25.8 million people are living with diabetes in the United States, seven million of those cases are undiagnosed.
“Self-management is a critical component of diabetes treatment,” explains Mary O’Connor, RN, BSN, CDE, Diabetes Program Manager at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center (EHMC). “We are dedicated to helping our patients and their families gain the everyday skills they need to successfully manage their diabetes, through a combination of team support, clinical guidance and education.”
COMMERCE interviewed O’Connor about managing this complicated, widespread disease, and here are her thoughts and insights.
Addressing the Diabetes Epidemic in New Jersey. “EHMC provides diabetes education to those with diabetes and those with prediabetes as well. The goal is to help the person with diabetes live a healthy lifestyle with no or minimal complications that are associated with diabetes. Managing diabetes is tough. Providing the support necessary to stay on track is important. Family members and significant others are encouraged to participate in the education process. In addition, EHMC participates in numerous community outreach programs to get the word out about the prevention and the management of diabetes.”
Managing Diabetes and Glucose Levels. “Managing diabetes day-today can be difficult. One is constantly having to make decisions and take actions. They are faced with numerous questions. Should I check my sugar? What should I do if the number is too high or too low? Do I have my meter with me? What about my medications? How do I work exercise into my schedule today? What should I do if the food available is not that healthy? How can I take the insulin when I am out to eat, and I don’t want anyone to know about the diabetes? These are just a few of the scenarios someone with diabetes runs into every day. Developing the skills to manage diabetes on a day-to-day basis takes time and effort.”
Advances in Diabetes Care. “We know that diabetes is progressive. However, with the many different medications available today, along with maintaining tighter control of blood sugars, complications do not have to happen. Today we have many weapons in our armory to manage diabetes. There are many new medications available, as well as newer insulins and insulin delivery systems, such as insulin pens versus a vial and syringe. Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are making managing diabetes easier.”
Caring for Diabetes Matters. “Knowledge is power. Having diabetes should not stop anyone from doing what they love to do. When I can alleviate someone’s fear about living with diabetes; when the mother with diabetes holds her healthy baby; when the teenager does not stop sports because of diabetes; when the person understands that he or she can still enjoy some foods—that’s what makes my job rewarding.”