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Managing Diabetes 2019

Diabetes can be lonely: the power of your peers

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Gráinne Flynn

Gráinne has a blog about living with Type 1 diabetes in Ireland; but is also a Diabetes Ireland volunteer, advocate, conference organiser and a Mum.

Diabetes peer support has many benefits including empowering people with diabetes and relieving the burden on our health service. Yet it is under-valued as a resource.

Managing diabetes can be lonely

Living with diabetes can feel like a very lonely place: most of diabetes management is done by the person living with it, outside of a medical setting. When I met other people with diabetes, it was like finding something I never knew was missing!

I had moved to a new town where I knew nobody and within two years, my diabetes was floundering. My healthcare service proved increasingly frustrating. But I knew if I could find other people with diabetes, I would find information on better services. However, I helped set up our support group and haven’t looked back since. Our group continues to be a source of information, motivation and inspiration.

Sharing the best diabetes information and advice

We learn so much from sharing practical advice to overcoming the challenges of diabetes. This has been the most valuable information in helping me live well with Type 1 diabetes. We also keep each other up to date on research, technologies and treatments. Finding others who understand what living with diabetes involves often lifts our spirits and encourages us to stay strong.

Health professionals benefit from diabetes peer support

Diabetes peer support is beneficial to health professionals also. It’s very difficult for any healthcare professional to cover absolutely all the information that a person with diabetes needs to know. They also don’t have the lived experience knowledge. Diabetes peer support fills those gaps. Often, by the time a new treatment is offered in clinic, the patient is already informed about it, thus saving time for our healthcare professionals.

Medical Futurist, Dr Bertalan Mesko, says “Empowered patients, empower health professionals” and evidence of this is growing. Research published in 2018 on the Effect of Diabetes Online Community Engagement on Health concluded that people with diabetes who are engaged with support groups improve their quality of life and improve health outcomes. This decreases hospitalisations, inpatient days, and reduces the overall cost for health services.

The impact of social media on peer support groups

It’s never been easier to find diabetes peer support with social media. An online search or using diabetes hashtags like #IreDOC (on Twitter) will send you in the right direction.

Diabetes peer support is the most under-valued, under-used resource we have, and I’d love to see that change.

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