One thing that can greatly help you on the road to living a healthier life with diabetes is developing a support system, a network of family, friends, health care professionals, and people with whom you can share your feelings, concerns, and tips for healthy living.
What You Should Do
The first thing you can do to cultivate a support system is to reach out to those around you. Talk to your family and friends. Tell them about your diabetes and how you manage it. Discuss any specific concerns you have and let them know what they can do to help you. Make sure anyone who is close to you knows what to do in an emergency. More than anything, let them know you need their encouragement and support. Also, let them know that you are still the same person you always have been—just paying more attention to living a healthy lifestyle.
You may also want to enroll in some diabetes education classes. There you will meet other people facing the same day-to-day issues as you are. Many hospitals and community health organizations also offer diabetes support groups. Consider participating in one of these activities.
You may also want to bring your family members or friends along so that they might understand some of the issues you are dealing with. Talking to other people who are going through the same thing as you will help you feel less alone, provide additional encouragement and help you pick up tips for dealing with some of the practical aspects of managing your diabetes.
Also, if you have access to laptop or mobile phone, you can tap into a wealth of information and support on the internet. Finally, don’t forget your health care team. Not only are they there to see to your medical condition, but they can also help you deal with some of the practical aspects of dealing with diabetes, as well as some of the emotional issues.
Think of all the health care professionals that see to your medical health as members of your health care team. Your team should include your doctor, nurse educator, dietitian, eye doctor, podiatrist, exercise specialist, pharmacist, and mental health professional. Ideally, all these people should see themselves as a team that is committed to your welfare. The team is there to work together to make sure you have the knowledge to deal with your diabetes on a day-to-day basis, to provide the resources to help you make decisions that affect your health, to monitor your progress, and to help you out if any medical needs arise.
What You Should Do
Make sure your doctor and other members of your team see themselves as a team and know about each other. Be sure that they have each other’s phone numbers and addresses. If you are making any changes in your life—quitting smoking or taking up jogging, for example—make sure all your team members know about it. Also, make sure everyone is fully informed if any problems should arise.
Don’t forget that you are the captain of your team. You are ultimately responsible for your health, and you are the one who puts your diabetes care plan into action. It is important that you be able to communicate freely with the members of your team. You should not feel uncomfortable asking questions or telling them about any problems that may arise.
But it is not always easy to feel comfortable when you feel nervous, are worried or stressed, or feel under pressure. Often just walking into a doctor’s office can put you on edge. You may have specific things you want to discuss and then forget what you wanted to say. Here are a few tips to keeping the lines of communication open between you and the members of your health care team:
Sources and References
The Diabetes Problem Solver—Quick Answers to Your Questions About Treatment and Self-Care by Nancy Touchette
Diabetes Self-Care Behaviors and Disease Control in Support Group Attenders and Non-Attenders by C Chiou
Group Affiliation in Self-Management: Support or Threat to Identity? By D Bossy, A Roger et al