December 23, 2011

Why Do People with Diabetes Keep It a Secret?

This blog (link is now broken) from Diabetes Health really hit home for me. It reminded me of my blog of December 6 and a blog last July (link now broken) by Ronnie Gregory. Why do people insist on keeping their diabetes a secret? One question has been answered, but most of us were aware of the answer because we always have the “diabetes police” on patrol at every gathering.

And yes, we get tired of their snide remarks about how we could have prevented diabetes. I admit I was surprised when one of those that has been on my diabetes police list was looking very carefully at the food on the serving table this last weekend. I asked her why she was not selecting many items and why she had passed on the deserts. Normally she would have selected two or three pieces of different deserts.

She did not answer, but her husband did. He stated that she now has type 2 diabetes! If looks could kill, he was due for some talking to as soon as she could get him alone. I kept my peace, although I would have liked to dish out some of what she was always handing me.

I purposely selected the same table to sit with her and her husband. She wanted to move to another table, but her husband said she should stay seated and maybe take some of the medicine she was due. I admit I wanted to, but I just asked her why she wanted to keep her diabetes secret. Silence. I asked what she had learned since her diagnosis. Again, silence.

At that point, I know there were two others from our type 2 group that had joined us at the table, so I asked everyone to introduce themselves and then I started talking about diabetes. Of course, I knew the others and we started a lively discussion about diabetes and what medications we were taking. I knew all of us were on insulin, so it did not take long for her to ask if we were near the end of life.

At that point the one woman from our group that does not always get together with us was just sitting down at the next table answered, “No Sweetie, we just want better management of our diabetes.” Then another of our group asked her where she had read this? The woman answered that was what she had heard. Almost in unison the rest of said, “It’s a myth”.

From that point on, she started asking questions. We interrupted just long enough to move the two tables together so we could talk and hear better without being at two separate tables. It was not long before our former “Diabetes police person” was crying. She asked why we were being so kind when she had always rubbed it in our faces. One of the group answered very well for all of us by saying that was not the way we were and we were taking this opportunity to help her when she needed it. I then added, “That she could keep her secrecy from others, but in the presence of other people with diabetes, she should learn to talk about it and get her questions answered.

We did answer most of her questions that evening and learned that she was having troubles with her blood glucose readings being too high and that the metformin did not seem to be working. She was on only 1000 MG total of twice a day of 500 Mg, and had been on it for only three weeks. We found out that she had not seen a dietitian or been counseled about counting carbohydrates or when to test. She was not a person that was overweight and really was having a difficult time accepting the diagnosis. We also suggested that she talk to her doctor about increasing the metformin.

We talked about anger, denial, and accepting the diagnosis. We warned her about depression and to recognize some of the symptoms. We talked about doctors, and getting familiar with the provisions of her medical insurance. She had a policy like two of the group and we covered some of the things she would be able to receive coverage for at no cost other than co-pay. Then we talked to the husband about his duties and what he should and should not do to assist her. That was a very interesting discussion and he was surprised at the things he learned. We did thank him for speaking up when he should have kept his peace, and his wife thanked us again for not rubbing her face in it.

She did get a few email addresses and phone numbers plus a few web sites she should read. We spent some more time discussing diabetes myths. Several times, we had to reassure her that what she had heard was incorrect and that the facts would prove otherwise. We all said that for a while we would guard her secret, but that eventually she should let others know and become an advocate for diabetes education. The woman from our group said she could talk to her anytime, and she would direct questions to the rest of us that had the information if she did not.

We concluded our discussion by saying that she should explore her options and increase her exercise. If they could afford it to get a prescription for more test strips from the doctor even if it meant paying for the prescription. Her husband said they could afford the extra strips and asked how long she should do the extra testing. We said that would depend on her and getting an appointment with a dietitian knowledgeable about diabetes. We told her that once she learned to count carbs and used the testing to learn how the different foods affect her blood glucose levels, then she could possibly reduce her testing to what insurance covered. We said she should not rule out insulin, but to learn about it before needing to use it. She ended the discussion by stating that after the talk with us that she felt like denial was behind her, and that she needed more discussion and learning. We all promised to help where we could.

I think we made another person a member of our group. Take time to read this blog about not keeping diabetes a secret (repeat of first link). It covers other reasons for getting rid of secrecy.

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