Time. That’s the most significant thing Chronic Care Nurse Rachel Murray offers patients at Rimbey Medical Clinic. Your doctor may only be able to spend five or ten minutes explaining your diagnosis, but Murray often spends 45 minutes with a patient, answering all their questions.
“I fill their ears with info!” she says.
The majority of Murray’s patients are coming for help managing Type 2 diabetes. Some are already familiar with the disease through the experience of a family member, some come with their guard up because they’re not ready to change their lifestyle (or don’t realize they’ll need to), and some are starting from scratch.
What happens when diabetes gets worse?
“On their first visit I usually show patients two vials of blood — one from a Type 2 diabetic and one from someone who doesn’t have diabetes. The high blood sugar blood is thicker and clumps together, and that helps people understand the vascular complications of diabetes,” Murray says.
Blindness, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and erectile disfunction are all possible complications of diabetes. Numbness and ulcers are common because thicker blood has difficulty flowing through our extremities.
“Higher than normal blood sugar acts like shards of glass in our blood vessels.”
Managing diabetes and reducing its effects
Your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your diabetes, but lifestyle changes are also important — if not more important.
“The side effects from medications often disappear after a week or two, but not always. Lifestyle changes are an effective alternative, or can help you stay on a lower dose,” Murray says.
Nutrition and exercise changes are most effective, but don’t be intimidated.
“I’m not telling you to go on a diet, and I’m not telling you to jog a mile,” Murray says. “There’s nothing you can’t eat, but when it comes to foods that are less than ideal you should think about ‘how much’ and ‘how often.’ Increasing your activity could mean going for a brisk 20 minute walk a few days a week.”
Murray says you shouldn’t change your whole world all at once — make one small change at a time, give yourself time to get used to it and then change something else.
“If you change everything at once you may see early success, but then you’re going to hate it, and miss everything you’ve given up to get there.”
Signs of diabetes
Once you’re over age 40 your doctor will screen for diabetes every five years or so, but you may notice symptoms like peripheral neuropathy (numbness to the extremities) or kidney complications first. Once you receive a diagnosis from your family doctor at the Rimbey Medical Clinic, you’ll be referred to Murray or another Chronic Care nurse with the Wolf Creek Primary Care Network in the clinic.
“Some people have health questions beyond diabetes, and I help them get answers. For some patients I do check-ins over the phone, and every few months we pick up right where we left off. Others want a short visit, and I can do that too.”
To learn more, call the Rimbey Medical Clinic at 403.843.2256 or visit rimbeymedicalclinic.com.