Diabetes can feel overwhelming. It helps to have a team on your side. Here’s a rundown of the experts you need to visit at least once a year to make sure you’re on track with taking great care of your diabetes.
Schedule a checkup with your family physician, internist, or mid-level provider (physician assistant or nurse practitioner).
This person serves as your primary care provider (PCP). He or she can help you coordinate your healthcare with other providers. Your PCP can also order labs or other tests that need to happen on an annual basis, like your Hemoglobin A1C. If you have health insurance, the Affordable Care Act allows for a yearly checkup with your primary doctor at no cost. If you’ve had Medicare Part B for more than a year, you can get an annual “Wellness” exam once every 12 months. The Part B deductible does not apply to the Wellness exam, so there should be no cost to you.
Arrange for an eye exam.
An eye exam is recommended every year for those with diabetes. Your eye doctor isn’t just checking to see if you need glasses. He or she is checking for diabetic retinopathy, which is damage to your eyes from poorly controlled blood sugars. Medicare will cover an annual eye exam every 12 months if you have diabetes.
Find time for a foot exam.
Your primary care provider may do a foot exam during your annual checkup. If not, you’ll need to see a podiatrist for a foot exam every year. A foot exam includes a visual inspection of your feet as well as the use of a monofilament. A monofilament is a very thin, flexible probe that your doctor will touch to different parts of your skin. This painless process is used to make sure that you have adequate sensation in your feet.
See your Registered Dietitian (RD).
Your RD will help you determine whether you need to adjust your eating plan to make sure that your blood sugars stay in range. Most private insurance companies cover Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT), which is the name of the service provided by a Registered Dietitian. Medicare covers three hours of MNT initially and two more hours every year after that. Medical Nutrition Therapy is fully covered under Medicare; there is no 20% copay.
Don’t delay on Diabetes Self Management Education & Support (DSMES).
DSMES is a program designed to help people with diabetes to understand their condition and to make choices that better their health. DSMES is proven to help improve the health of people with diabetes. DSMES consists of ten hours of group or individual education the first year, followed by two hours of additional training every year after that. DSMES is covered by most major insurance carriers as well as Medicare.
Does this list seem overwhelming? Don’t worry, you’ve got all year to spread out your appointments. Consider making just one phone call a day until you’ve scheduled all your health care visits. If you need a handy guide to hang on your fridge and help you keep track of your progress, you can get one here. You’ll be well on your way to staying well in no time at all.
p.s. Wondering about artificial sweeteners? Read this article.
Julie Cunningham is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. Julie is the owner of a nutrition counseling service in Hendersonville, NC. She works as both an in-person and an online nutritionist.
MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES, IBCLC
I believe people with diabetes can enjoy good food and good health without feeling ashamed of their bodies.