As a person or parent of someone with diabetes, you’ve probably already figured out it takes a lot of work to “organize diabetes”. Not only do you have to organize all the “Tools of the Trade”, (meters, test strips, lancets, syringes, pump supplies, medications, etc.), you also have to keep track of diagnosis and the medications to go with them, daily glucose readings, blood pressure, A1c’s, weight, carbs, exercise durations and a host of other stuff.
It takes an acrobat to keep all of the elements in place.
Developing and keeping your diabetes self-management “systems” organized, can really help you get, and keep, your diabetes under control. So, get your diabetes organized!
Organize Your Tools
You should have one place in your house that functions as “Diabetes Central”, where you keep the bulk of your diabetes supplies. This location could be a kitchen cabinet, shelf in the linen closet or bathroom, a drawer (or two), or if space is really a premium, a large plastic container with a snap on lid. Most diabetes supplies are fine if they are kept in a dark place.
Drawers are good because they slide out and you can select one at a convenient height, but, unfortunately, they can be small. Shelves are more spacious, but have their own inherent organizational challenges, because items can get pushed to the back and forgotten. If you have the room to designate an entire cabinet you have the luxury of some real organizational freedom. Remember, no matter what location you select, if you have small children in the household you need to be able to secure it from inquisitive minds and fingers.
The space should be thoroughly cleaned and only diabetes related supplies should stored there. Place your diabetes supplies in your space by category:
• Test strips, control solutions, back-up meter, extra batteries
• Alcohol swabs, syringes, bacterial wipes
• Ketone test strips, ketone meter (and instructions on how to read) or home A1C tests
• Pump supplies
• Glucagon, glucose tabs or fast acting sugar for lows
• Copies of all user manuals and warranties for gadgets
Insulin needs to be carefully handled, not too hot or too cold. Many insulin users store their supply in the butter storage compartment of the refrigerator after it’s opened since it’s convenient, easy to grab in a hurry and extends the shelf life.
Schedule a quarterly review of “Diabetes Central” to make sure you have an adequate supply on hand of all of your supplies.
Always Carry Your Meds and Testing Supplies with You. It may seem a bit extreme, but a random power outage could leave you stuck in an elevator for hours; an earthquake, tornado or flash flood could leave you without access to your home, medical supplies or emergency assistance for 72 hours or more.
Of course you need something to put your carry around supplies in. A small backpack, fanny pack could do the trick. But they aren’t designed specifically organize your diabetes supplies. So, if you are tired of looking like you’re carrying around a first aid kit, check out some of the many stylish options out there:
• aDorn Designs — founded by a Type 1 there are many affordable and stylish carry options for men and women suitable for any occasion.
• The Insulin Case Shop – also carries pill organizers, medication lock boxes and other handy stuff.
• Betic Bag – more stylish options
• Skidaddle Bags – bright colors and unusual patterns (camouflage), perfect for kids!
The office kit is a much pared down version of the home set-up. A drawer, portion of a drawer or shoe-sized plastic box with a lid is probably about all the space you need to allocate. You should definitely include lancets, test strips, alcohol swabs, hand sanitizer and spare meter batteries. You also need to have glucose tabs or other fast-acting sugar and a glucagon kit if you are an insulin user.
Organize Your Monitoring Systems and Paperwork
The self-management of diabetes is a balancing act, with the goal of keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol within a very specific range for optimum health. But, keeping track of your glucose levels, what and when you eat, how much you exercise, and how you are feeling generally can help you puzzle out:
• Effectiveness of medications
• How well your nutrition plan is working
• Stresses that seem to affect blood sugar levels can be identified
• Exercise levels and types can be evaluated and activities can be increased or decreased as needed.
Unfortunately, you can’t do that unless you are keeping track of that information. So now, in addition to everything else, you also need to be an excellent record keeper too!
Don’t despair. Records can be kept in a variety of ways. The important thing is to find a way that fits you and your daily activities. Whether you use a paper system, software or a combination of both, choose a method that is easy for you and won’t get lost.
The most important data to keep track of is your blood glucose levels. You should be testing a variety of times daily. If you are newly diagnosed, check with your doctor about the best times and frequency for you to test.
Most glucose meters will store the results of your checks, but if you’re using a logbook, it’s important for you to write those results in the book.
Logbooks are the “old-fashioned” pencil and paper version. There are literally hundreds of different designs, covers and configurations. You can get a logbook from your health care team, design one yourself, or download free forms. Just be sure your log includes places for the date, time, food, insulin or med doses, exercise, and results of glucose checks.
If you are using log pages found online be sure to create a folder and save them with a date designation for easy tracking. If you choose this method you need to access your computer every day to record your info. It’s also a good idea to back-up your files weekly to safeguard against a major computer crash.
If you are tech savvy, there are lots of software programs and mobile applications to help you track all aspects of your diabetes care and more. Many meters today will let you download your blood check records if you have the right cables and software. Check with the manufacturer of your glucose meter to see if this is an option.
iTunes has over 50 diabetes related mobile apps, though applications for the Blackberry and Android haven’t caught up with iPhone development. Likewise, there are many free or inexpensive software programs for Windows and Mac’s and many will offer you a demo to see if it fits your needs.
No matter what kind of meter you use, no matter how you choose to record your information, remember this: those numbers don’t do you any good if they’re locked up in the memory of your meter, computer or logbook. So, check them frequently and learn from the information.
In addition, too many tools can actually make you less organized. So, choose a few good tools and use them wisely to track information that will enable you to live a healthier lifestyle.
Other Organizational Tasks
• Assemble the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the members of your medical team assembled in one directory (of course you also need to carry a copy of this with you at all times). This should include your primary care physician, endocrinologist, certified diabetes Educator, nutritionist, dentist, ophthalmologist, and/or other specialists such as cardiologist, podiatrist, etc. Be sure that each member of your medical team has the name and contact information for other members of the team.
• Develop a filing system that includes information on your entire diagnosis and treatment plan. After each doctor’s appointment or test, file all the forms and handouts into a designated folder or bin. Each member of your medical team should know of any special diagnosis, treatment plan or medications prescribed.
• Prepare a list of all the medications you take including the correct spelling of the name, dosages and frequency, the doctor who prescribed them, your pharmacists name and number. You should carry a copy of this with you to all of your doctor appointments.
• If possible, try to refill your prescriptions at the same time. It has been found that people are better at adhering to their medication schedule if they have all their meds on hand.
• Designate a file box or folder for all your prescriptions, refill orders, and medication lists.
• Create one calendar to schedule all areas of your life. Be sure to schedule all the tests that you need for doctor’s appointments on your calendar too.
• Create a goal list with no more than 3 items on it. It could be changing a particular habit such as eating out less than 3 times weekly; exercising 30 minutes daily; adding a fruit or veggie to mealtime or lowering you A1c to 7%. It only takes 30 days to create a new habit or break an old one. Keeping track of your progress can make it easier note goals and habits that are accomplished!
• Review your logs weekly to pinpoint any changes in your blood glucose numbers. Can you relate those changes to other activities such as exercise or meals? Look for patterns and make adjustments if necessary.
• You should have your A1c levels tested four times yearly, until your blood sugar and other test numbers are stabilized for a long period of time. Your physician may then decrease the frequency to 3 times yearly (but no less!). See other specialists at least once yearly or as your treatment plan dictates.