Dangerous hypoglycemic events and symptoms in long-term care settings can be reduced with wider use of diabetes self-management education and support, a new review of evidence shows.

Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels drop very low, potentially causing fainting and death in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. But investigators from the American Association of Diabetes Educators have found that diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) significantly reduced the number of hypoglycemic events and symptoms among participants in the studies they reviewed. 

That finding may be meaningful for institutions where strong intervention has the potential to lower the number of hypoglycemic events and symptoms — including long-term care facilities, the reviewers asserted.

In LTCs, up to 35% of residents are admitted with a diagnosis of diabetes, and hypoglycemia events occur in more than 40% of these residents, many of whom are treated with insulin, reported the AADE. These individuals experience more emergency department visits, more frequent hospitalizations and higher rates of mortality than do their peers who haven’t had a hypoglycemic event. In addition, studies have shown that 18% of Medicare beneficiaries admitted to the hospital with hypoglycemia are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, and 23.3% of these will die within a year.

“Being informed is certainly a critical component of hypoglycemic risk mitigation, but the evidence in this review demonstrated that interventions that include DSMES have had an impact on the number and severity of symptoms and events in people with diabetes,” said corresponding author Jan Kavookjian, Ph.D., in a statement.

The AADE’s review of evidence provides references to clinical educational materials, and was published in the August 2019 issue of The Diabetes Educator