Social Support: A Critical Part of Diabetes Self-Care
Dont tackle your diabetes alone. Learn about the many resources available to support you.

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Social Support: A Critical Part of Diabetes Self-Care

If you have diabetes, at times you may feel alone in your challenge. Rest assured, you are not.

With rates of diabetes at historic highs, the need for support resources has gone up. As a result, you may find help in your community in unexpected places.

What are the areas in which you need help? Your needs will determine where you could turn for support. Here are a few topics to get you started.

I may need help with ...

  • Cooking right to manage my diabetes
  • Safely increasing my physical activity
  • Coping with my emotions
  • Controlling my blood sugar levels
  • Using my blood glucose meter
  • Understanding my medications and any possible side effects
  • Finding or paying for my diabetes self-care supplies
  • Quitting my smoking habit
  • Getting specialized assistance such as computers, a wheelchair or household modifications

Where to look
For many of these areas, you might find support through hospital community programs or a local community center. Try the American Diabetes Association chapter in your area or your nearby library. Check out programs and services available to you through your health plan. Support groups or classes may deal with topics important to you.

You can also find information and support online through trusted sources such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or the National Institutes of Health (look for the NIH's National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse). The American Diabetes Association has a free educational program to guide you through your first year of living with diabetes.

Get moving
As part of your commitment to get more physically active, talk with your doctor about what exercise is right for you. Then get started! If you plan to walk, make it more social by starting a walking group at work or in your neighborhood. A nearby mall may have a walking club you can join.

For other resources for activities, look for classes at parks and recreation centers, community colleges or community centers in your area that support your current fitness level. You may be able to gradually work into something more challenging. You might pick a walk, fun run or other exercise event a few months away and set a goal to take part.

Have you thought about an exercise buddy? Working out with a friend can help you keep to your regimen and stay motivated. Together you can set small goals and perhaps even have a fun and healthy competition.

A world of help
If you use a smartphone or tablet, even more resources are at your fingertips. Visit your favorite app store and download one that helps you do a key activity. Examples: track your blood sugar, record your physical activity or monitor your carbohydrates and calories. Track your numbers over time. Set reminders for taking your medications.

Other apps help you choose wisely at the grocery store or restaurant, or you can have a virtual personal trainer as you work out at the gym. While online, find communities of interest where you can share questions and experiences.

Make sure the apps are credible, current and accurate. Does the information on the app come from medical experts, a commercial business, advertiser or ill-informed (but well-intentioned) consumer? Remember that no app (or website) is a substitute for your doctor's advice.

Testing supplies
With diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, you can expect to have twice the amount of annual health care expenses as someone without diabetes.

If you're having any difficulty getting testing supplies or paying for your care, let your care provider know. Testing strips and insulin may be covered under your health plan. A pharmacist or clinician may have ideas. A social services agent also can help you look for a safety net if needed.

If you're not insured, a social services agent can help you look for a safety net for such emergencies. Don't overlook Medicare or Medicaid if you're eligible. Also, ask about free samples from health care providers. Drug companies may also have patient assistance programs available through your doctor.

Your health care team
Doctors, nurses and other members of your care team may have advice or can help you find social resources when you need them.

A diabetes educator is professionally trained to help you develop the knowledge and skills necessary for efficient self-care. This includes if you need help using your meter, taking insulin or managing your blood sugar. It also includes tips on diet and exercise.

Make sure you're in a healthy state of mind. If you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed at any time, ask your doctor about a mental health referral.

In addition, your pharmacist is there to answer any medicine-related questions. If you're having trouble with any aspect of your self-care, ask for support. Don't suffer in silence and let a small concern become a major problem.

In the long run, your positive attitude and willingness to understand and manage your disease will be the best tools at your disposal. A strong network of family, friends and professionals will help ensure your wellbeing on the road ahead.

Note: If you are physically inactive or you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease or other symptoms, check with your doctor before starting or changing an exercise program. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe and suitable for you.

By Ginny Greene, Editor
Created on 04/02/2013
Updated on 04/02/2013
Sources:
  • National Diabetes Education Program. 4 steps to control your diabetes for life.
  • American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes–2013. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:s11-s66.
  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Complications of diabetes.
  • National Diabetes Education Program. Ideas for diabetes support groups.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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