Diabetes is a common disease among people with developmental disabilities. It is serious throughout the entire year, but there may be special factors for you to consider during the winter months. By reading this article, you will learn about diabetes and how to support individuals during the winter.
Our bodies change the food we eat into sugar. Our bodies use this sugar (glucose) to give us energy. Diabetes is a health condition that causes glucose to build up in our blood instead of being used by our bodies. For most people (people without diabetes), the body uses a hormone called insulin to control the amount of sugar that is in our blood. Diabetes happens when the body does not make enough insulin or when the insulin is not working the way it should. This means that people with untreated diabetes cannot use the sugar in their bodies in the correct way and this sugar builds up in their blood.
If a person has untreated diabetes, the level of sugar in his or her blood is too high. Over time, this extra sugar can damage different parts of a person’s body – for instance his or her heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes. Untreated diabetes can even lead to blindness or needing to have a foot or leg removed.
No, there is no cure for diabetes. But, even though there is no cure, there are many things that people with diabetes can do to stay healthy and live a long life. As a direct support professional, you can encourage people with diabetes to talk with their doctor about how to stay healthy. You can also learn about diabetes yourself and make sure that the individuals you support follow all of their doctors’ instructions.
The key to managing diabetes is keeping the amount of sugar in the bloodstream under control. People with diabetes generally need to be careful about what they eat, monitor the amount of sugar in their blood, and get regular exercise. Some people with diabetes need to take medicines. To control the level of sugar in their blood, you can support people with diabetes to:
The winter season can bring certain problems in managing diabetes. The cold weather and winter holidays can cause:
There are many things you can do to support people with diabetes during the winter:
The winter months can be cold, even in California.
Dry skin and eyes are common problems during the winter.
The winter season is a common time for respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and the flu.
Holiday treats and get-togethers can make it easy for everybody – people with and without diabetes – to stray from their diet plans.
Cold and rainy winter weather can also make it difficult to follow a regular exercise plan.
Changes in the weather can cause changes in blood sugar.
The holiday season can be a busy and stressful time.
Check out this DDS SafetyNet presentation about diabetes.
Also, check out these presentations from previous months:
Finally, you can ask a health care professional or your local Regional Center if they have materials that you can use to teach people with developmental disabilities about diabetes.
The best way to learn more is by talking to a doctor. You can also check out these resources on the internet:
Last updated on June 10th, 2010