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Self-Empowerment and Peer Support
"If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can't, you're right."
At Defeat Diabetes Foundation we believe in a self-empowerment approach to dealing with the issue of diabetes. Self-empowerment means increasing your strength and self confidence. This is accomplished by gaining the skills and knowledge that allow you to overcome obstacles in life.
Whether you are newly diagnosed, or a veteran of diabetes, you know that diabetes is a complex and confusing disease. Your continued health requires you to be proactive about your diabetes.
It is important for you to become knowledgeable about your disease. So, take the time to read about diabetes. Defeat Diabetes Foundation website is chock full of information about diabetes self-management, ways to avoid complications of the disease, nutrition tips and recipes, latest news, treatments on the horizon and much more.
If you are newly diagnosed, Your First Year with Diabetes, by Certified Diabetes Educator Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, is an excellent primer that guides you through each month of your first year with diabetes. There are literally thousands of other books and resources, including blogs which are usually written by people with diabetes, themselves. Note: Theresa Garnero is a frequent contributor to the DDF website. Look for her Islets of Humor™ cartoon each month in our E-Lerts™ newsletter.
In addition to developing an effective medical team, be sure to have a strategy for meeting with your doctor. The average person with diabetes spends a mere 63 minutes each year with their doctor. Make sure those minutes count by writing down the top three issues YOU would like to talk about.
For the other 525,537 minutes each year, a person with diabetes is solely responsible for managing their own condition. That’s why self-empowerment and peer support can be important components to your long term physical and emotional health.
So what is peer support?
Peer support is a way to link people living with a particular condition to share knowledge and experiences, in this case diabetes. Peer support can take many forms: formal group meetings, phone calls, text messaging, casual visits, a walk, grocery shopping, or just a chat. Peer support is intended to complement and enhance your professional health care by creating the emotional, social and practical assistance necessary for managing the disease and staying healthy each and every day.
Peer support’s effectiveness was validated in a recent study from the University of Michigan Health System published October 2010 in Annals of Internal Medicine. A simple weekly phone call(s) with a peer facing the same self-management challenges helped diabetes patients manage their conditions and improve their blood sugar levels better than those who used traditional nurse care management services alone. The study showed women with uncontrolled diabetes reduced their A1c levels after six months in the program.
Peer support accomplishes the following:
The peer relationship promotes respect, trust and warmth, and helps empower an individual to make changes and decisions that enhance their lives.
Types of Peer Support Groups:
Note: Although Defeat Diabetes Foundation believes all forms of peer support are better than none, we subscribe to the philosophy that peer led programs provide a better opportunity for sharing experiences without the “we know best attitude” that sometimes comes hand-in-hand when dealing with medical professionals.
Napoleon Hill, in You Can Work Your Own Miracles, points out a few attributes that are beneficial to people living with a chronic disease, such as diabetes:
1. A positive mental attitude – Having diabetes isn’t the end of the world, but you will have emotional ups and downs as you seek to attain good health and live your life to its fullest. Finding ways to stay positive makes it easier to bounce back from the lows and take full advantage of the highs. Plus, people with positive mental attitudes are just nicer to be around!
2. Self-discipline – Every decision you make may impact your diabetes and your long term health. Having the self-discipline to test regularly, exercise daily and eat properly means you have a better chance of avoiding the complications of the disease.
3. Freedom from fear – Fear causes inaction. And, when it comes to diabetes, poor self-management can spell disaster. The best way to be free of fear is to become knowledgeable about diabetes by participating in education and peer support programs.
"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."
Hill, Napoleon. (1971). You Can Work Your Own Miracles. New York, NY: Ballantine Books
British Columbia Ministry of Health, Adult Mental Health Policy Division. (2001). Peer Support Resource Manual. Victoria, British Columbia Canada
Heisler, M. (2006) Building Peer Support Programs to Manage Chronic Disease: Seven Models for Success. California Health Care Foundation.
University of Michigan Health Systems Newsroom. (2010). Diabetic adults’ conditions improved after phone calls with fellow patients. Ann Arbor, MI
Updated January 3, 2011
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