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
Thursday, 10 July 2014
Friday, 4 July 2014
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Managing your diabetes is a very personal thing and how (and with whom) you choose to share that with can also be a very individual thing. Some people choose to be very open about it whilst others can be more reserved – and whatever works best for you is obviously the best thing.
But is there a certain amount we should disclose about our condition regardless of how much we might want to?
I recently started a new job (actually my third different workplace in the last 12 months – the price of being a contract worker) and I haven’t really talked a lot about diabetes since I began. I have my tester and diary out on my desk all the time, I openly use my pump in the lunch room but I haven’t really explained any of this to my new colleagues. I’ve told them I have type 1 diabetes but I’ve not elaborated any further than that.
I think the main reason is that I don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable because of it. Or that I don’t want people to feel any sort of responsibility towards me because of it. That said, in a previous job, I ended up explaining to two of my co-workers all about type 1 diabetes in great detail when we had an overnight stop in London for some meetings. It turned out that they were very curious and felt a lot more informed as a result.
I’ve always been very independent with my diabetes and whilst my immediate family and close friends know what they need to know I’ve never felt at ease automatically giving that same information to colleagues – partly because I’ve never felt like I needed to.
But is it being responsible for your own health to tell people what might happen, how to treat a hypo and what signs to look out for?
I suppose the answer is always a pretty personal thing too. If you’re going through a phase where your control isn’t as good as you’d like, or you don’t get hypo warning signs then maybe it’s more prudent to be open with your colleagues than if you’re a lot more confident in how your daily routine affects your diabetes.
What we should always remember is that there should be no stigma attached to having diabetes and you should always be able to speak openly about what it means for you and what it might mean for your colleagues too.
If you’re not sure about how you should broach the subject or want someone to talk to, don’t forget you can contact us in confidence to talk things through.
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Living with diabetes is no exception, yet many people often feel like they have to go through it alone. Maybe because they don't know anyone else who has the condition. Maybe because they feel like a 'burden' on their loved ones. Maybe they even feel guilty for having diabetes, and don't feel anyone else should have to put up with it, too.
This is very far from the truth, and very far from the expectations. Diabetes is a condition that doesn't yet have a cure. Until the day that we have a cure, we have to live with the condition. There are no 'holidays' from it, we cannot postpone the condition from ourselves. There is no escape.
There are no doubt times when we wish we could run from diabetes. Lock it in Room 101 and carry on as normal. Diabetes is the cause of so many cases of depression and anxiety, and of course, that could then have a knock-on effect with diabetes, itself.
When we feel like this, it is easy to want to lock away not just the diabetes, but lock ourselves away, from the rest of the world. To some people, this is a coping mechanism. They may need time to think. However, what about those who do this because they feel they have no one to help them get through this?
Diabetes UK has a number of branches when it comes to support networks. This is something they pride themselves on. and rightly so:
Careline: Dedicated helpline for people with diabetes, their parents, partners, friends, colleagues. The helpline is staffed by trained counsellors, who are there to answer ANY questions you have relating to diabetes. Very useful if you have a quick question, or if you need someone to just listen to you.
Local support groups: These have been running for many years, and give support to those with diabetes, on a much more local and personal level. Some groups focus on providing support, some look at ways to raise money for Diabetes UK. Many groups have guest speakers, covering a range of topics. Find your local group.
Diabetes Peer Support Volunteers: This is all about talking to someone who knows first hand what it's like to live with diabetes. They might not be healthcare professionals, but they CAN share their experiences, and help you to work out your issues.
There is a wealth of information out there, in the local community, and within the diabetes online community. As peer support volunteers, we really want to find a way to support YOU. Who do you talk to about your diabetes? Do you have someone you can talk to? Let us know, and let us listen to YOU. Because no matter what anyone thinks, it's all about YOU.
Sunday, 23 February 2014
This is a question that is wrought with guilt, doubt and perhaps even frustration. Should you really be eating something that tastes so nice, and has a higher sugar content than that salad you had for lunch? Maybe. Maybe not.
When someone with diabetes is initially asked that question, there are many possible replies and reactions. The person could be overcome with a horrible feeling of guilt. Maybe they shouldn't put their body through the extra sugar? How will this one slice of cake affect them, in years to come? Will it? Maybe if they chose a piece of fruit, instead of the cake, their health will be better.
As peer support volunteers, we are in no position to tell someone what they should and should not be eating. We are not healthcare professionals, and cannot say what the consequences of eating something in particular, would be. However, what we can say is that we understand how tough it can be, to constantly have to question every piece of food, every drink, and whether we can afford to.
It may seem like people who don't have diabetes, are trying to dampen the person with diabetes' spirits. Why should someone with diabetes be allowed a custard cream/chocolate digestive, every now and then?
Like everything, 'unhealthy' food is ok to have, every once in a while. There is no food that someone with diabetes, is categorically not allowed to have. Everything is ok, if it is in moderation. The odd chocolate digestive with a cup of tea, will not affect that person's sugar levels in the long run. It may cause a spike, on that day, but it won't rule the person's sugar levels in the long run.
Of course, even within the two main types of diabetes, there are different attitudes and approaches to what someone eats. It has been suggested that those who are insulin dependent, are at an advantage, as they can take into consideration the extra sugar they consume, when they are judging how much insulin to give themselves. Those who treat their diabetes with tablets, may be more inclined to shy away from the sugary food, as they aim to maintain their sugar levels, through tablets only twice a day (rather than at every meal time).
Whatever your attitude toward food and drink, what other people say, shouldn't make you feel guilty, or like you're in the wrong. It is YOUR diabetes, not their diabetes. No one knows your body as well as you do. If you want the occasional treat, this is ok. Everything is ok, in MODERATION.
We may not be healthcare professionals, but if something is bothering you, in regards to your diabetes, please feel free to talk to us. We have many contacts, within the healthcare profession, who will have the answers to your questions, if we don't.
Saturday, 18 January 2014
Thursday, 9 January 2014
How about we stop for a minute, and think about what we really want from 2014. Do we really want to exhuast ourselves at the gym 7 days a week? Do we really want to cut all ties with the things that we love? The answer is probably no. And the good news is, there's no need to.
When it comes to diabetes, taking care of one's self, is really important. People with diabetes are more likely to come across complications in old age, if they don't care of themselves, today.
However, there is a difference between taking care of one's self, and overworking the body. Working out 7 days a week, and having no form of enjoyment, will most likely lead to exhuastion, tiredness, and a desire to stop everything, all together.
The important thing in looking after yourself, both your diabetes and your general health & fitness, is learning to find a balance. You don't have to be a gym buff. The Department of Health recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week. This is less than 3 hours a week. What's even better, is that this doesn't mean 3 hours in the gym. You might be surprised at what counts as exercise...
How many times have you taken the lift, instead of walking? Try to take the stairs once in a while, perhaps. Or how about taking a nice stroll to meet friends for a coffee?
Try cycling. Find a local park, and enjoy the breeze, as you cycle your way to fitness.
Even those mundane tasks around the house that need doing – vaccuuming, DIY, gardening.
You might want to get family and friends involved. It is a lot easier to keep at something, if you have a reason to keep going.
Building up your activity gradually, makes it easier to stay active. You might even discover you quite enjoy a particular activity!
Diabetes is a very unpredictable condition. That doesn't mean that it should control us or stop us from doing things. If you are worried about doing a certain form of exercise, because of how your diabetes might be affected, it might be worth talking to your Diabetes Nurse or Consultant. There are a lot of people with diabetes, who also regularly blog about they sports they take part in.
More importantly though, listen to your body. No one expects you to be running marathons next week, or climbing mountains next month! Take it one step at a time, remember to check your sugar levels before the activity, during if possible, and after. You are more likely to have a hypo up to 24 hours after exercise, so it is perhaps wise to monitor your levels the next day. If you feel low during the activity, stop and treat the hypo.
Diabetes UK – Getting Active and Staying Active
Diabetes UK – Blogs from various people with diabetes, who take part in sports