By: Scott M. King
Does diabetes leave you feeling alone? Join the club-literally. Diabetes support groups are forming all over the country, offering people with diabetes a chance to share info, ideas and good company.
One such group was started by Roberta Dunker, RN, in Franklin, N.Y.
“We call ours a ‘fun’ group,” she says. “We meet in my home, we have picnics and share food. Information is passed along in small doses. Ideas are spread around, and warm fuzzies are given freely.”
“People suffer from a lack of knowledge,” she says. “It scares me. With good control we can reduce complications by 70%, but some patients only test when they go to the doctor.”
The members of Dunker’s group record their blood glucose levels and often share them with the rest of the group. They get support when they “blow it” and a chance to brag when they maintain healthy levels. They give and take insights about their lives-not just their diabetes.
“We share our frustrations about our jobs, everything,” she says. “And we always end with a snack-sugar free Jell-o with a dollop of Cool Whip Light.”
DIABETES HEALTH recognizes the importance of support. In our September issue, columnist Cathy Feste muses on this very topic. As with anything in life, it’s hard to accomplish something as crucial as good control without courage-and encouragement. Friends and family who do not have diabetes may be understanding and supportive, but no one can expect to provide for all the physical and emotional needs of a person with diabetes. Within the safe parameters of a support group, people with diabetes can “let loose,” and express the many feelings that are unique to this disease.
So, you may be asking, where do I find a group? If you don’t work, or have many contacts outside the home, it can be difficult to make new friends. DIABETES HEALTH will be profiling more groups in the future, and maybe you’ll find one near you. Another option would be to ask your caregiver for help in locating a support group. Diabetes Educators are a great source of information.
News of Dunker’s group-like most support groups-has been passed on by word of mouth. If you live in the Franklin, N.Y. area, give Roberta Dunker a call at (607) 829-3405.
Perhaps the most exciting approach would be to start your own group. Taking such an ambitious leap can be a lot of fun and offer many benefits. If you start the group, you can decide what sort of group you’d like. There is no limit to the other interests that can bring people with diabetes together. However, you may not wish to limit yourself to certain kinds of people-the most satisfying support groups are often made of very different personalities and interests.
The people in Dunker’s group are a diverse bunch, ranging in age from 20-70 and represent all kinds of lifestyles. Some members have type I diabetes, some have type 2. Some inject insulin, some take pills, some control the disease with diet. The most important thing they share is a desire to take good care of their health and lead happy lives.
If you have access to the Internet, you may have seen the diabetes “chat rooms,” where people can talk back and forth in a sort of “cyberspace support group.” Dunker, however, says that nothing beats real, warm human contact.
“We hug hello, we hug good-bye. They’re the best hugs in the world.”
However you do it, make sure you’re getting the support you need. If you start a group, or already have one established, please write us here at DIABETES HEALTH. We plan to start a directory of support groups for our readers across the United States and abroad.
As Roberta Dunker says, “When you share something, you also gain.”