8 diabetes practices – by Helen May

helen-may-1114-150x150I’ve been asked to write about the Diabetes UK 15 Healthcare Essentials. While I knew the basics, I must confess, it has been a long time since I last read them. So, before putting bed to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I have been familiarising myself.

I have always associated my annual diabetes review with the Hb1AC results, so was not surprised to see this in the number one position. And, I am regularly called for an annual retina check, so no surprise there, either. But kidney function check and cholesterol? They are just things which I have assumed are part of any health check.

There has been plenty said about foot checks and I will always complete a survey about foot checks because I don’t get them. There are other essentials which have not been offered to me in my first 10 years with diabetes such as an educational program or emotional support.

It was certainly useful to remind myself what I am entitled to as part of my healthcare. However, I wonder if there is another half to this list. This list describes the things we should expect from the healthcare team. But they are not with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of a year. Like diabetes is. So if we are to maintain a healthy life and allow diabetes to have the minimal impact, perhaps there are some practices which our bodies should expect of us. For example:

  1. Always attend clinical appointments when offered. I know some people have said that they find their annual review a waste of time, but I think we owe it to ourselves to push the healthcare professionals to make it useful.
  2. Understand what diabetes is and how it affects us. It is probably easy to sit back and accept that we have diabetes and take our medicines every day and think that is it. But we should know what will increase the chances of complications. Only then, can we make an informed decision whether to enjoy cake every day or only for special occasions.
  3. Be willing to educate people without diabetes. I am not talking about becoming a Diabetes Bore or a Fundamental Diabetic. However, there are many misconceptions about diabetes: what causes it, what we can and cannot do/eat, …: and, unfortunately, we cannot rely on the press to always get it right. The occasional question:“Do you mean Type 1 or Type 2?”, “Did you know Steve Redgrave has diabetes”, “Do you think people choose to have diabetes?”: can help to make people change their preconceptions.
  4. Do not be ashamed of diabetes. I am guilty of not testing my blood sugars as often as I should because I feel uncomfortable doing it in public. But why should I? Testing is not unhygienic, it takes a small amount of time and very few people are afraid of such a tiny drop of blood.
  5. Respect the healthcare professionals. I know they are not correct all the time and, sometimes, I may question whether they respect me (why is “to be treated with respect” not one of the 15 essentials?) but these are not reasons to be late for appointments or be abusive in return.
  6. Respect the NHS and what it provides. Thankfully, I am not one of those who has to fight for test strips. In fact, my prescription requests have never been questioned. However, I still feel I am wasting the tax payers money if I don’t get enough blood on a strip in time and have to throw it away; I feel guilty if my insulin is left in the sun and I have to throw it out. The NHS may not be perfect, but I would rather have an imperfect Healthcare system than have to fund my insulin myself.
  7. Stand up for the 15 healthcare essentials. If we do not receive any of the essentials, we should make it known and push to get it. For example, I had always assumed, I had not been offered a course because none are run in my area, but last week, I discovered they have been running for at least 8 years. So I signed myself up for the next one.
  8. Help others who have diabetes today or may do in the future. Support Diabetes UK and ensure they have the funds to research better treatments or a cure for diabetes; if you feel comfortable doing it, share your experience and expertise through your local group or online forum; make sure others with diabetes do not feel alone.

If we receive the 15 healthcare essentials and follow these 8 diabetes practices, I think people with diabetes will live full and active lives.

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