There is plenty of research about the effects of diabetes on health. But few studies have addressed what people want when it comes to their health care.
The Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs study (DAWN) was a large international survey taken of doctors, nurses and people with diabetes. The purpose of the study was to learn what people believe, want and need to manage diabetes more effectively. “We need to pay more attention to the psychosocial aspects of diabetes, and through DAWN, hopefully we are closer to this change,” said Pierre Lefèbvre, president of the International Diabetes Federation.
DAWN was conducted in 2001, with responses submitted by more than 5,000 people with diabetes and 3,800 health care professionals from 13 countries. The results were used to identify critical gaps in health care for people with diabetes.
If you have been living with diabetes for a number of years, DAWN’s findings will not surprise you. The study found that more than half of the people with diabetes felt stressed and anxious about their health. These feelings were expressed both by people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, regardless of where they lived. The results also showed that people want more help from their health care providers in dealing with the emotional side of diabetes.
What these results mean
First, it means that if you have had feelings of anger, frustration, fear, sadness or guilt about having and caring for diabetes, you are not alone. Knowing that these feelings are common may help you feel more comfortable talking about them with your family, friends and health care providers.
Second, the results of the study are a good reminder to health care providers to pay attention to these important issues. You have the right to expect your health care provider to ask you about how you are coping with your diabetes. Sharing this information with your health care provider is just as important as any other part of your health care, such as having a foot exam or looking at your blood glucose monitoring record. Quality diabetes care is more than just the numbers and the medicines. It also means caring about you as a person.
The support you need
If your provider does not ask about the emotional side of things, feel free to bring it up. You are not wasting your provider’s time by raising these issues. Sometimes having your provider listen carefully to you for only a short time can make a world of difference. You have the right to ask for what you need in order to live better with diabetes. (See the “Assess Your Relationship” quiz on page 15.)
If your provider does not seem interested in how you are feeling about your diabetes, then you may want to find another provider. Look to other people with diabetes or to a diabetes educator to steer you toward a health care provider who is interested in you as a whole person and is not just interested in your numbers.
If you do not want to or cannot change providers, you can find other sources of emotional support, such as:
- Family or friends;
- Someone who is a good listener;
- Others who share the same concerns you have, such as members of a diabetes support group.
Support groups offer the chance to talk with other people who are having many of the same struggles you are. A diabetes educator in your area can be a good place to start when you look for a support group.
Your American Diabetes Association office also may be able to offer resources for support (call 800-DIABETES). If a support group does not appeal to you or is not available, there are many books published by the American Diabetes Association and others that address these important issues.
If you find that your feelings are overwhelming and interfere with your enjoyment of life, you may benefit from counseling, medication or both. Your provider or diabetes educator can help you find a counselor in your area who understands diabetes. There are also other resources that may be available to you. Many employers offer work site assistance programs, and many religious organizations offer this type of counseling. There may also be community-based resources available. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Even the strongest people sometimes need help to manage a difficult illness like diabetes.