Getting The Support You Need To Manage Diabetes With Confidence

Though we may have the caring support of family and friends, only people diagnosed with diabetes fully comprehend the mental, physical, and emotional impact of having the disease.

That’s why some people join a diabetes support group, to commiserate with others who know precisely what daily monitoring, injections, A1C frustrations, or endless carb counting is like—no explanations necessary.

Support Group Benefits

Support groups are a gathering of individuals - in person, by phone, or online - who share a common interest or health concern, such as diabetes. The groups can be formed by any interested person or organization to provide education, resources, emotional support, and/or a place to share personal experiences.

Since people with diabetes are at varying stages of acceptance and management skill, attending a few group sessions is the only way to know whether a particular group’s structure and focus is a good fit. No one should feel obligated to remain with a group that doesn’t meet their need or is in any way upsetting.

People who attend support groups report a variety of benefits, including:

  • Feeling less isolated, less misunderstood.
  • An increased acceptance of, or adjustment to the illness, and better coping skills which helps reduce diabetes-related depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Being able to speak freely about one’s experience and feelings.
  • An increased sense of competency and control, and a better understanding of what to expect.
  • Receiving diabetes education, practical advice about glucose management, and info about treatment options.
  • The exchange of opinions about doctors, alternative treatments, supplies, and resources.

Beside getting support, group members who are old-hands at diabetes management often find sharing their knowledge and experience highly rewarding.

Choose Wisely

Before settling into a diabetes support group, it’s good to ask about their confidentiality policy, the group’s meeting schedule, attendance expectations, and whether there are any established ground rules, or fees. Also, find out how between-meeting announcements are communicated.

Because anyone can start a support group, watch out for indications that a group is fulfilling the needs of one or two members. Promises of a cure, encouragement to stop medical treatment, pressure to buy certain products or services, and high fees to attend are signs the group’s purpose is other than support. Also, if there’s frequent griping and disruption going on, or if members are judgmental of other’s choices and actions look for the nearest exit, and seek out a different group.

Caution is especially required with online support groups. Members should know the privacy policy of the site they are on and protect their personal information (name, phone, address) since other members may not be who they say they are.

Finding A Group

Naturally, the support group we attend will depend on what’s available in our community, our ability to get around town, or on our access to a computer. To gather support group options:

  • Get recommendations from doctors, clinics, diabetes educators, dietitians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, or mental health counselors.
  • Look in phone books, check newspaper listings for community resources, and peruse your city or township’s website under community services.
  • Ask community centers, libraries, and churches/mosques/synagogues/temples about support resources.
  • Do an Internet search for “diabetes support” or for “diabetes support group in (your city).” Also check social media sites, and the resource pages of diabetes websites and blogs.
  • Find out what resources local, state, or national diabetes organizations have listed.

Though not everyone with diabetes will want or need it, connecting with others who know exactly what we are going through can be a powerful support. When we are seen, heard without judgement, and valued we are strengthened by the relationship, whether it be short-term, or long.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: ALDE Communication

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