Thursday, 27 November 2014
Sunday, 9 November 2014
For me personally, realising I needed to ask for help came about 3 months ago. It can take time, but I truly believe that with the right support, you can feel better.
But of course, people can't know how to help, if they don't know that you need that help, in the first place.
People are very different in how they handle things that are thrown at them. Some people are quite comfortable in asking for help. They know who to turn to, they know how they're going to get that help, and they have a rigid plan of what they will do to overcome whatever it is they are facing.
Some people are very different. For example, some people decide that turning a blind eye is the best course of action. Sleeping for longer, avoiding social situations, heck even taking up extreme sports, so they don't have to think about their troubles!
Regardless of how easy it is to ask for help, the important thing is that the help is there when it is eventually needed. So from a diabetes point of view, giving access to local diabetes nurses, consultants and care teams, is a big 'must'. There are other sources of help too - websites, local groups, blogs and the diabetes online community (Twitter and Facebook especially).
To those who say asking for help is a sign of weakness, when was the last time you asked for help? Asking for help is showing strength. Asking for help is acknowledging there are issues that need to be addressed - be it physical, emotional or psychological. Those who ask for help should be given credit for doing so. Rather than shying away and allowing the problem to get worse.
People who have had diabetes for months or years may feel like they shouldn't have to ask for help. This isn't true. Diabetes isn't an easy condition to live with and sugar levels can change at whatever time in your life, for whatever reason. There is never a time that people can't ask for help with their diabetes, or anything, even.
When it comes to your health, there are two options - turn a blind eye and see what happens. Or ask for help from your local diabetes team, other people with diabetes, etc, and see how you can overcome this, together.
If you do want to talk to someone about your diabetes, feel free to drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
I’ve had a few interesting conversations about Peer Support this week and it’s really got me thinking about what this is really all about.
At the start, the aim was to try and use volunteers like Louise and I to undertake some training and then go about creating a network of people who could meet up and provide support to each other for managing diabetes.
It’s not necessarily turned out that way but so far I think it’s been successful in terms of seeing what works well and how it can be improved to more fit the needs of people with diabetes.
Where it’s been most difficult is trying to get a group of people together socially. I think that’s mostly down to trying to find a date, time and venue that’s actually convenient for people and then managing those unforeseen circumstances that can prevent people from attending. I don’t necessarily think that’s a Peer Support specific thing, though perhaps it’s made a little more difficult trying to co-ordinate people you don’t know too well.
Where I think it has worked well is building more of an online community and allowing more casual interactions with people who are looking for advice on something specific, as well as looking for someone to talk to when things are getting on top of them. Hopefully having that outlet is beneficial for people.
What all this has lead me to is a bit of a reimagining of what Peer Support could look like and how it perhaps integrates with other services that are beneficial to people with diabetes.
As you may know, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have Care Pathways which are basically a set of agreed standards for how people with a particular condition (in this case, diabetes) should be treated. If you want to investigate the diabetes care pathways, you can do so on the NICE website.
I’ve often thought about a similar “support pathway” and how various voluntary services (like Peer Support) can be used to help patients with long term conditions. My recent conversations have made me look again at what is available to people (and what should be available) and I think that will help clarify the role of Peer Support.
In Sheffield we have a Diabetes UK Group that run monthly meetings where people can get together and socialise before listening to a speaker who talks about a specific aspect of diabetes. It occurred to me that instead of trying to create a separate network of people with Peer Support, that by building up individual relationships and then encouraging people to attend an already established group, this may be more beneficial.
By contrast, there’s currently no family/children group in the city (though that’s hopefully a work in progress) so for young adults moving from paediatric care to adult care there’s no real support provision. As I’m sure many people will attest to, becoming wholly responsible for your own care is a big thing and rightly needs support.
It’s examples such as this and perhaps students coming to the city to go to university that I think really shows the need for Peer Support and the possible benefits it can have on people with diabetes.
It’s not always easy to engage younger adults in the importance of their care, or in getting them to admit to needing support. It’s often a busy time of life and many people (myself included when I was younger) don’t like to admit that managing their health is difficult and that reaching out to either another individual or a group can be a huge step. But I think the benefits are there for all to see and that means groups and individuals have to do a better job at selling those benefits and engaging with those who need support the most.
I think the future of Peer Support in Sheffield will be focused on engaging with individuals proactively (which has proven successful so far) and talking to those who seek out the service. I think by cultivating those relationships and getting those who want more support to engage with a local group will be beneficial and hopefully mean they will be able to speak positively about their experiences and advocate it for others.
Support isn’t a “one size fits all” thing. Tailoring any approach has to be individual and not everyone will be comfortable being part of a group, or having ongoing individual contact. For others, being part of a group will be a huge eye opener about the wealth of information that’s out there. As with clinical care, support has to be right for individuals and hopefully that can continue with a fresh approach in 2015.
Remember, if you do want to talk to someone about diabetes, whether it’s just for tips on managing hypos, help on managing a new diagnosis, or support with managing the condition after a number of years, you can get in touch and talk confidentially. Look for @AndyPeerSupport on Twitter, e-mail email@example.com or search “Diabetes Peer Support Sheffield” on Facebook.
Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Firstly, in the days or weeks leading up to them, write down a list of questions you want to ask or make a note of anything that's been troubling you about your diabetes. Remember that this doesn't have to be limited to just high or low blood glucose levels. Diabetes is as much about psychological and emotional support as it is physical or medical help.
Thursday, 21 August 2014
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
There are a lot of things we learn to live with as a result of having diabetes. Hypos are just one of many things that we people with diabetes have to face.
I remember when I was diagnosed that the specialist nurse I saw at the time tried to explain to me what it would feel like when I had a hypo. (There’s no “if” in these cases – you’re bound to have a hypo eventually). I don’t remember how she described it at the time, although in fairness I was too busy trying to work out how to carry all the stuff I’d been given and desperately trying to remember what doses of insulin I needed to take.
What I do vividly remember is having my first hypo.
I was working in a pub kitchen when that feeling we’re all familiar with started to wash over me. I could feel my heart pounding and my hands were starting to shake. I remember feeling quite disoriented – it was as if thinking had become something to concentrate on rather than being a reflex action. I think the best analogy you can give someone who isn’t diabetic is that it’s like being in an induced state of panic. I’m not sure it’s possible to convey to someone who doesn’t get hypos how it actually feels. Of course your close friends and family will learn the signs and can see what it looks like (reports of me being grumpy in such situations are wide of the mark), but you can’t articulate the way it feels.
I’d been given a number to call the first time I went low so that a nurse could make sure I was OK. I remember stepping outside and making that call, trying to explain what was happening as if I was the first person that this had ever happened to. Of course that’s not true, but when it’s happening to you for the first time, you’re convinced that you’re the only person in the world that feels that way.
Of course the nurse talked me through what I needed to do. I’m fairly sure I actually carried proper Dextrose tablets back then so having had a couple of those and a sit down I felt ready to go back to work. The added bonus of working in a kitchen meant a free sandwich was fairly easy to come by.
There are so many hurdles we have to jump with this condition and whilst they get easier with time, the first time you go over one, it feels like a mountain.
Remember that you’re not on your own with your diabetes – there are a lot of people out there who understand what you’re going through and will help if you need it. You can always contact us as peer supporters and we’ll help in whatever way possible.
Until next time, take care