On being a Nurse, Mother to a Type 1 Diabetic, and a Diabetes Educator

September 20, 2017

I am fortunate enough to have been chosen as the new Diabetes Educator.  I could not feel more excited and fulfilled in my newest adventure being with the Endocrinology Team!  

Although I’ve enjoyed functioning in many roles as an registered nurse, I have found my niche being in a position that serves to educate and support individuals in their health journey; particularly with a chronic condition. 

I will preface this by saying that although I consider myself a supportive member of an interdisciplinary team, I fell short in being a supportive mother. You see, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) on mother’s day last year. Since that day, I found that what makes me likable as a bedside nurse did not translate well into being a T1D mother. I’m positive I became the ultimate helicopter mom demanding to oversee his injections, peeking at his glucometer, and hawk-eyeing his nutritional intake. You say, “Good job! You’re a great mother!” Thank you. I tried to be the best right hand man to my then 12-year-old son. 

The reality, though, is I did everything wrong in supporting him in his journey into physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Looking back at my actions, I truly did mean well. After all, I love and care for him!  But, he begged to differ.

Since then, I’ve changed my relationship with him and was able to educate myself on how I can better support him. So, I thought I could share tips on Diabetes Etiquette from the Behavioral Diabetes Institute. Nurse educators encourage those who don’t have diabetes to understand how to support their loved ones.

  1. Do understand that diabetes is hard work.  It’s a full time job with no time off.  It involves thinking about what, when, and how much is eaten, all the while factoring in exercise, medication, stress, blood sugar monitoring, and so much more.
  2. Don’t focus on the doom and gloom of diabetes and share all the horror stories of people you know who have this condition. Diabetes is scary enough and stories like that are not reassuring.  Besides, with good management and a strong support system, the odds are in their favor to live a happy life with diabetes!  Let me ask you this. What complications come with good diabetes management?  The answer is NONE!
  3. Don’t offer unsolicited advice about eating or other aspects of diabetes.  You may mean well, but giving advice about someone’s personal habits is hard for them to hear.  Popular beliefs such as “you should stop eating sugar” are out of date or just plain wrong!
  4. Do offer to join them in making healthier lifestyle changes.  Not having to be alone through a journey can be a challenging task for most.  It’s one of the most powerful ways you can be helpful.  If they want to start a new activity, join them!  It will be good for you, too!
  5. Don’t look horrified when they check their blood sugars or give themselves an injection.  Don’t peek at or comment on their blood glucose results without asking.  It’s not fun for them to stop what they are doing to find a private place to poke themselves without worrying what others think or what comments will be made about their results.  Monitoring is an important aspect of self-management and if they don’t feel safe in their company, managing their condition just became that much harder.
  6. Do ask how you can be helpful.  What you think they may need may differ greatly than what they know they need.  It can be anything, such as doing errands.  Stress and worry cause spikes in blood sugar levels.  Offer some help
  7. Do not offer thoughtless reassurances.  When you first learn about their diagnoses, you may want to reassure them by saying things like, “Hey it could be worse; you could have something more serious!”  You may mean well, but it sends an implicit message that diabetes is no big deal.  It IS a big deal!
  8. Do offer your love, encouragement, and be supportive in efforts for self-care.  You can do this by setting up a successful environment supporting healthy food choices.  As they work hard to manage their diabetes, sometimes showing how much you care can be very helpful and motivating.

I hope this helps! Please feel free to comment below and ask questions or share your story. Your role can have a powerful impact on their success.

Do know, you are an important member of our team and we appreciate your help. Take good care of yourself, too!  I look forward to hearing from you.

To learn more, please visit www.behavioraldiabetes.org

Tags: diabetes, Manio, Estee



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