by Suzanne Sheres MMSc, RDN,LDN, CDE
The opportunity to participate as a certified diabetes educator fellow at the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference was an eye opening experience, interacting with families and their children or parents with diabetes in a no judgement zone. An array of speakers including parents of children with diabetes, adults with diabetes, medical professionals in research, as well as endocrinology and technology experts presented informative sessions. The conference offered opportunities to share insight with other fellows and learn about each other's experiences as healthcare providers caring for families with diabetes. Families spoke without boundaries, sharing emotional and educational experiences of the time their family member or child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
A common discussion at the conference was about the language used by healthcare professionals caring for people living with diabetes. If used carefully, it can lead to adaptive, supportive, proactive, trustworthy, flexible, collaborative and open dialogue. Everyone on the diabetes care team should view their client as an individual that is also living with diabetes — not as a "diabetic." Following the diagnosis of diabetes, a individual is still that individual, but happens to also be living with diabetes. Diabetes shouldn’t be controlling a person's life.
I spoke with parents at the session "Positive Caregiving, or How not to be the Diabetes Police" and the parents relayed the difficulty of caring for their children; from their temper tantrums as toddlers through the emotional roller coasters of teenage years. Two other parents discussed how they selected a particular brand of pump for their daughter and their provider refused to order any pump unless it was his preferred pump brand. This was negatively impacting their daughter since their research suggested the other brand was a better fit for their daughter. Other parents at the table joined in and advised the parents to seek another endocrinologist to care for their daughter.
It was inspiring to see Friends for Life participants so determined to push for the best technology to manage blood sugars and enhance their loves one quality of life, along with advocates of on going research for a cure. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to attend and learn more about my clients and my specialty.