Living with diabetes can be difficult. As a result, many adults with diabetes experience extra stress. This stress can make it harder to control blood sugar and form healthy habits, such as eating a healthy diet, that are needed to live well with diabetes.The good news is that learning how to better manage diabetes through self-management education can help you lower stress and gain control of your blood sugar. Self-management education topics include diet, physical activity, medication use, problem-solving, reducing complications such as kidney problems, and stress management. A variety of formats are available to meet a person’s needs and preferences. Little time? Online reading may be for you. Like learning with others? You may want to choose an in-person class or support group.
Many excellent resources for self-management education are available at the VA and in the community. However, Veterans often have trouble finding them. The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is conducting a research study that compares two ways to help Veterans find these resources:
1) a directory of community and VA resources, and 2) a peer-led coaching program. In the second, peer coaches work with participants for about 3 months to provide support, help with goal setting, and serve as a bridge to resources that can help Veterans better manage their diabetes and stress. Coaches are other Veterans with special training who have had success in managing their own medical problems. Veterans in the study can choose to access resources at the VA, in the community, or both (enrollment with the VA is not required). A pilot of the peer-led coaching program showed that the it was easy to use and well-received by a small group of 8 Veterans (see Curtis’s Story).
Study participation lasts about 6 months and all or most of the visits are done by telephone. Participants are paid a small amount after completing telephone questionnaires during the study.
|“Curtis,” a 56-year-old African American Veteran with type 2 diabetes, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder, enrolled in the pilot study for help. Though Curtis was already seeing a mental health counselor at the VHA, he told the peer coach that he believed exercise would improve his physical and mental health. At the initial meeting, Curtis worked with the peer coach to set goals for exercise, diet, and monitoring his blood sugar. Five meetings followed over the next 3 months. Curtis began to track his glucose levels, use community food pantries and diabetes-friendly cooking websites, and visit local gyms. Through health coaching, the coach reinforced the actions Curtis was taking to improve his health. At 3 months, Curtis had established healthy habits—regular blood sugar tracking and exercising—and had lost weight. To keep up the momentum, the peer coach encouraged Curtis to enroll in a community program’s online network for more education and support.
If you have diabetes and have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, call 832-272-4982 to find out if the iNSPiRED Study is right for you.