New online research from Diabetes UK, to mark the start of Diabetes Week 2018 (11 – 17 June), has revealed that one in three people in Wales (37 per cent) would seek advice online first over talking to a GP about a health concern.
The poll carried our by YouGov on behalf of Diabetes UK also showed that almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents in Wales said they would not feel comfortable speaking to an employer about health concerns.
While 80 per cent said they would feel comfortable talking about a friend or loved one’s health condition, only three quarters (74 per cent) said they would feel comfortable talking to friends or loved ones about their own health.
[/aoa]The theme for Diabetes Week 2018 is Talk About Diabetes, and Diabetes UK Cymru is taking the opportunity to help people with diabetes have honest, open conversations about their condition with healthcare professionals, friends and family.
Case study: Luke Edwards, 29, from Anglesey.
Luke was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2010, while in his first year at Bangor University. He ran the London Marathon for Diabetes UK Cymru in April this year.
People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce the hormone insulin, which controls the amount of glucose in the blood, so they must receive it via regular injections or via a pump. It is a lifelong condition and isn’t currently preventable.
Luke has often felt has had to hide his diabetes from others, due to lack of understanding of the condition. Luke said:
“At times I have tried to hide my condition, especially when it comes to testing my blood sugar or injecting insulin in public. It can feel very awkward, so most of the time I will go to the toilet to do it where no-one can see me. People don’t necessarily realise why I’m doing what I’m doing, and I’m always afraid that someone may see me injecting and mistake it for drugs.
“I have recently started using the Freestyle Libre, a sensor on my arm that records my blood sugar levels continuously. I can scan the sensor to check my levels, rather than testing by pricking my finger. I still haven’t got to the point where I can wear a t-shirt in public but I have been telling people about it. I think more awareness is needed about what these things look like, to help people understand more.
“I’ve always felt awkward talking to employers about it, especially when it comes to time off for doctors’ appointments. I was once even told I could leave early to go to an appointment “as long as it wasn’t a regular thing”. I’m very grateful that my boss now is pretty understanding.
“I’d encourage others with diabetes to make people aware of your condition. Some of my close friends have relatives with diabetes, so they understand it a little better. By talking more openly we can educate people more and dispel some of the myths about life with the condition, like being asked whether I can eat sugar.”
Diabetes UK has produced a list of top tips to encourage people with diabetes to have conversations they may have been avoiding having with their healthcare professional team.
Diabetes UK’s top tips for people with diabetes talking to healthcare professionals:
- Diabetes is complicated and different for everyone. There’s no such thing as a silly question. So don’t be afraid to ask about whatever’s on your mind.
- It’ll really help if you go to your appointment with some questions in mind. You could write them down or send them to your healthcare team beforehand.
- This time is for you, so let your healthcare team know what you’d like to talk about from the start.
- Sometimes you’ll have more to talk about and you might need more time. If you can, book a double appointment so you don’t have to rush.
- There might be things you feel uncomfortable talking about. But your healthcare team is there to help, so be honest and make the most of their medical expertise.
Dai Williams, National Director, Diabetes UK Cymru, said:
“Talking about diabetes can be hard. But for someone living with the condition, or caring for someone who does, it can mean getting the right treatment, ensuring your rights are protected at work, or making sure your child gets the best care at school. That’s why being able to talk about diabetes, and having people to talk to about the condition, is so important.
“This diabetes week we want to help people live better with diabetes, by giving them tools and tips to start tricky conversations, and get the support they really need.
“Finding information online about diabetes can be difficult, too, and risky if you don’t know where to start. We’d recommend using the Diabetes UK website, or our helpline, if you want to be signposted to expert advice about living with or managing any aspect of diabetes.”
An earlier survey of more than 8,000 people living with or affected by diabetes carried out by Diabetes UK showed that greater support for emotional and psychological health; better access to healthcare professionals who understand diabetes; and more support and understanding at work and school were priorities for those affected by the condition.
To support this, the charity has also developed tips to help healthcare professionals sensitively approach conversations with their patients living with diabetes, as well as to help the public start a conversation with someone they know who has the condition.
Diabetes UK’s Tips for Healthcare Professionals include:
- Some things are hard to talk about and that’s fine. Just be frank and use clear, simple language. It’ll help both you and your patient feel more relaxed and comfortable.
- Sometimes there’s a lot to talk about in an appointment, and you might need more time. You could suggest booking a double appointment next time and highlight other ways to get in touch, such as email. Don’t forget about our helpline that’s there to offer support as well.
- Your patient is more than just a number. By understanding their day-to-day lives you can help them manage their diabetes better. A simple question about their favourite hobby or weekend plans can often build rapport and make a huge difference.
In order to get people talking this Diabetes Week, Diabetes UK is also asking people to share their own tips about having difficult conversations. Get involved and share your tips on the website www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetesweek or on social media using the hashtag #talkaboutdiabetes.