If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, you probably feel overwhelmed, along with a hose of other emotions. Shock, guilt denial – they’re all common reactions to the news that you or someone you care for has diabetes.
The shock can be worse if the diagnosis is Type 1 diabetes. This variety of diabetes seems to come from nowhere (research is still being done to discover the exact triggers for the condition) and can be a real shock. Suddenly you or your child has gone from being the picture of health to someone with a lifelong condition involving constant monitoring and daily injections of insulin. Any support is welcome on hearing the news.
Type 2 diabetes can come as less of a shock, as it is largely caused by preventable lifestyle factors such as poor diet, being overweight or lack of exercise (probably all three). A regular medical checkup can give you a warning that you are likely to get the condition (this stage is called being “pre-diabetic”. Still, the diagnosis can still come as a real shock, possibly associated with some guilt.
To help you through the initial stages of your diagnosis, you will probably be introduced to your diabetes support team. Some members of this team will only be needed for support in the early days of learning to deal with diabetes, but with others, the support you will get will be ongoing.
One of the first members of your support team you will work with will probably be a diabetes nurse. He or she will provide support and education in how to take your insulin, especially if you, or your child, require injections. This person will also provide training in the use of blood glucose monitors and general diabetes information. You will probably meet this support person at your regular diabetes checkups.
A nutritionist will also be part of your support team, mostly in the early stages of adjusting to life with diabetes. This person will educate you on meal planning, both regarding timing and actual food, healthy snacks, suitable foods for treating hypos and more. Often, this person provides valuable support by teaching you about the Glycemic Index, which is a helpful approach to coping with diabetes.
Your diabetes specialist is another person who will provide ongoing support. He or she will see you for regular checkups, write prescriptions for the medications, testing equipment and syringes you may need, and work with you to find the right level of insulin dosage to suit your lifestyle.
In the early stages, a social worker or counsellor can often provide very useful support for helping you cope with the mixed emotions that come with a diagnosis of diabetes. A social worker can also organise networks, putting you in touch with other people who are coping with diabetes. This type of support can be a real lifeline if you need to know that you are not alone – or would just like to swap tips and ideas with someone.
In some areas, the social worker will also organise activities and camps, particularly for children and teenagers living with diabetes. This type of support is more than just support – it’s fun!
If your government provides financial support for the parents of children with Type 1 diabetes (some countries, e.g. New Zealand) have this support available), the diabetes social worker will let you know about this and apply for it.
But your diabetes support team is there to help you manage your condition. If you have any questions at all about diabetes, they’re the ones to ask.