Wellness iNPractice Diabetes

Helping Your Patients Recognize and Overcome Barriers to Diabetes Self-management

Effective management of diabetes requires that patients be active participants in their own care and treatment plan, which involves complex schedules for monitoring glucose and taking medications, as well as significant lifestyle changes (e.g., daily exercise, dietary changes). 

There are many potential barriers that can make self-management of diabetes difficult and overwhelming to patients:

  • Difficulty incorporating monitoring, treatment, and exercise into their existing schedule
  • Low capacity for understanding health concepts (low health literacy, cognitive impairment, or language barriers)
  • Psychosocial issues that prevent self-care (depression, lack of support)
  • Mobility or other health issues that prevent self-care
  • Financial barriers to paying for medications or services
  • Transportation issues that hamper regular office visits
  • Limited access to healthy, fresh foods

You can help your patients identify the specific obstacles that are affecting their ability to carry out diabetes self-management. You and your patients can find ways to overcome key obstacles to help them reach their treatment goals and improve their outcomes.

Identifying and Overcoming Obstacles

It can be difficult to get patients to open up about things that may be interfering with their self-care plan. Let patients know that they are not alone, and that you and other healthcare providers are partners who will help them identify and overcome obstacles.

Here are some suggestions to start a conversation with your patient:

  • How are you feeling about your diagnosis and treatment?
  • What do you find most challenging about diabetes?
  • What parts of managing your diabetes do you think you might have a hard time with?
  • What is the most surprising thing you’ve found out about diabetes?
  • Is there a role you would like your caregiver to play?

Interview patients about their daily schedule using the Patient Interview Guide.

Share various tools to help patients overcome the obstacles they have identified during the interview.


  • Self-care Instructions – gives a take-home summary/snapshot of the patient’s entire self-management plan 
  • Blood Sugar Diary – encourages patients to track blood glucose testing results and share them with you at the next visit 
  • My Insulin – instructions and reminders for patients taking insulin 
  • Be Active for a Healthier You – tips and resources to help patients be more active 
  • Head to Toe Health Tracker – a tool to help patients keep track of all aspects of their health over time and share with you how they are doing

Healthy Eating

  • Nutrition Know-how – information about healthy eating and how to make it a regular habit
  • Diabetes Cookbook – recipes for patients to prepare tasty meals that follow healthy eating principles
  • Interactive Meal Builder – resources to help patients see what a healthy meal looks like and how to create one

Help your patients find and navigate the wealth of information, tools, and sources of support available online.

Diabetes Education

Diabetes Online Community

Mobile Applications (apps)

Financial Support Resources

Psychosocial Support

Family Member or Caregiver Education and Involvement

You can also download and print this brochure “Overcoming Barriers” for your patients. Both English- and Spanish-language versions are available.