Thursday, November 15, 2012

American Association of Diabetes Educators (Utah Conference)

I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Utah Chapter of the American Association of Diabetes Educators conference in Salt Lake, Utah. It was a three day conference for nurses and doctors. I was asked to attend as a patient and live-blog the event on twitter. I used the hash tag #AADEUT if you’d like to see what was written you may search for it. I was also asked to write a summary on this blog at the conclusion of the conference. As part of attending, my entrance was paid for and my meals were provided. I’m a local so no transportation or boarding fees were covered.

So, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let me tell you a little about the AADE conference. The conference was very well done with a full three days of speakers and classes. As I said before, this was an educator’s conference. I am not an educator, nor am I a nurse or training to be one. However, all of the information was very relevant to me as a diabetes patient and I learned a lot. In attendance, there were nurses, educators, dietitians, doctors, and pharmacists. They attended the conference to gain more knowledge about the work they do in their practice.

Given the length of the conference, and the amount of classes, I simply cannot write about it all. I’ve decided I’ll give my overall thoughts as well as talk about three specific speakers who I think this audience can most relate to.

The first was our keynote speaker, Ginger Vieira. Ginger spoke about motivating your patients by listening. By telling her own story, she was able to convince the educators in the room that it’s important to be a good listener and to motivate your patients by asking the correct kinds of questions. She shared her own story of diabetes and finding an endocrinologist who could understand the human side of diabetes. Sometimes blood sugars are out of control for no reason, or for really silly ones, like one autumn the apples in Vermont were really large. Ginger shared some feedback that she received on her Facebook page when she asked fellow patients with diabetes, “What advice do you have for your CDE?” I remember sending out this tweet: “So many great comments I'm unable to write them all. The mood in the room is thoughtful. These CDEs are REALLY listening! #AADEUT.” Ginger instructed that the visit with a CDE or Endo should not be a judgment zone. Patients feel a lot of negative emotions regarding their diabetes; they don’t need to be judged on top of it. The main point she made was that at CDE really needs to listen and then ask the right questions. This way, he or she is motivating their patients to make the changes necessary to improve their own health. Ginger is a life coach specifically working with people who have diabetes. She’s learned to ask patients what they want to achieve and works with them to guide them to success.

Her speech rang true to me in so many ways. I generally take really great care of my diabetes, but I can still relate to the statement; “Don’t treat us like idiots. I live with diabetes every day.” Her talk was really motivating and I know that the CDE’s in the room were able to see her point of view and understand it. I know that they were indeed motivated to be less judgmental and more helpful. Ginger can be found at: on twitter as @Ginger Vieira and by email at Check her out, it will be worth your while.

The second speech I’d like to highlight was given by Shara Bialo who was our concluding speaker of the conference. Shara spoke on Rising to the Emotional Challenge of Diabetes Care: The importance of getting personal. Her speech was incredible. She shared her own diabetes story, and it wasn’t an easy one. To summarize, she was diagnosed at the age of 8, took charge of her own care at a very young age, and was pretty well out of control until her early twenties. At that time, she met an amazing diabetes educator who changed her course and prepared her for the possibility of pregnancy. Like Ginger, Shara’s story was so amazing and really drove home the point that people with diabetes want to be healthy, live long, complication free lives, and sometimes, they just need help getting there. The amazing people who have chosen to work in the field of diabetes care are those who can help us get to those healthy lives, and stay there. Shara is on twitter as well at: @SharaSays

Lastly, I’d like to talk about a speech which really caught us all by surprise. I was really curious about his topic as I looked through my conference schedule. Dr. Lawrence Fisher’s speech was titled: “Diabetes Distress and Depression: Improving Motivation for Behavioral Change” He took a nice long time showing all sorts of research before the figurative light bulb in the room was turned on. We all saw where he was going with it. First, he made the point that clinical depression and diabetes distress are two totally different things. They are not related, and they do not have the same symptoms. He noted that most people have not been asked about distress related to, or brought on by their diabetes. The root of his presentation was this:

“We have become so focused on: delivering information, addressing plans for behavioral action, identifying barriers to behavior change, measuring behavior change that we have neglected to address adequately the very feelings, beliefs and expectations that actually drive the behavior we would like to see changed!!! So, the point is, get to the bottom of it. Address the feelings that are maybe even subconsciously driving the poor care behaviors.”

It was so good. Such a good speech, I really related to a lot of what he said. I know that I don’t have depression. But sometimes, I do feel distress over the care of my diabetes. It IS overwhelming; to have to take care of it 24/7/365 that sometimes it is just too much.

There were many other things that I learned throughout the conference. But the main thing I realized was that, as educators, they care about the work they do, and they care a great deal for the patients they serve. If you are interested, I suggest you go back in to twitter and read the #AADEUT feed for the dates of November 7, 8, and 9. You can also access all of the information including PowerPoint slides at: I hope you enjoyed reading my feed, and thank you so much for all of the retweets, comments, and interactions that I’ve received. In all, I had 17 new followers added throughout the course of the conference and retweets potentially reaching an audience of 10,159 twitter users. I had several interactions with fellow PWD throughout the conference via twitter and email.

 Thank you, Michelle Litchman @michlitch and David Winmill @dwinmill for inviting me and giving me this opportunity. I’ll just throw it out there that I’d be more than happy to do this again, for another event. I’d also be more than happy and totally willing to participate on any patient panels where my experience as a Type 1 diabetic, diagnosed as an adult would be beneficial.

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