Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD
Who you tell about your diabetes is a personal decision. You don’t have to tell the woman who styles your hair or the cashier at the local grocery, but certain people do need to know.
– DO tell your:
HEALTH EXPERTS. Doctors and other health care providers, such as nurses, dietitians and dentists, need to know you have diabetes. This information can alter the advice they offer you and the way they treat other conditions you may have. When Sophie told her dentist about her condition, he asked her to make her appointments after meals, so she wouldn’t run the risk of having low blood glucose, especially if her dental work made it more difficult to eat for a while.
SPOUSE OR ROMANTIC PARTNER. High and low blood glucose levels can cause you to have mood changes or problems with sexual activity. If your loved one knows that you have diabetes, he or she can help in several ways, such as having an easier time understanding your moods, helping you treat low blood glucose levels with quick snacks and supporting you if you take medication or use another type of treatment to improve the intimate time you spend together.
BOSS. Sophie was afraid to tell her boss about her diabetes. She feared that he would become angry if he knew she had a medical problem. But telling him made her life much easier. He let her eat lunch at a regular time each day and understood her need to leave early for medical appointments. If your boss doesn’t understand your health needs and makes your working environment difficult for you, contact the American Diabetes Association at 800-DIABETES or visit its Website at www.diabetes.org. The organization has experience dealing with these types of problems and can give you helpful advice.
CHILDREN. Diabetes doesn’t have to be a scary topic or a shameful secret. Let your children know that diabetes doesn’t change who you are as a person and that many people with diabetes live long and healthy lives. Invite them to help you with your diabetes care tasks, if they are interested. Young children can insert a test strip into your glucose meter when you test your blood or join you as you dance to an exercise video. When children hear difficult news, they often find it helpful to share it with a close pal. Give them permission to tell a friend or two; this may help them deal with the situation.
– DON’T tell anyone who will:
NAG OR MAKE FUN OF YOU. If you have a relative or friend who will remind you over and over that you aren’t taking care of yourself or will make fun of you, don’t tell that person. You need support, not words that are harsh and mean. Anyone who will make it more difficult for you to care for your diabetes does not need to know. Research shows that people who have friends and family supporting them usually have an easier time doing diabetes-related tasks. A good friend can help you avoid tempting foods, remind you to stick to your workout schedule and cheer you on.
GIVE YOU UNHEALTHY ADVICE. Sophie’s Aunt Joyce believes that she knows everything about everything—she claims to be an expert on any topic that comes up. If anyone has a medical problem, Aunt Joyce knows the cure, even when the experts say there isn’t one. If anyone tries to lose weight, Aunt Joyce will disagree with the dietitian and tell everyone how it really should be done. At first, Sophie thought that it might be helpful to tell her about her diabetes, but then she changed her mind. Sophie only wants to hear good, reliable advice from medical experts who understand it, such as her physician, nurse and dietitian. She doesn’t want Aunt Joyce to offer her “expert” opinion on everything.
Sophie talked about her diabetes with her family and her boss. Her husband now helps bring up her spirits when she feels down. Her best friend, Nancy, joins her for evening walks, and her children help her inspect her feet each night so she can treat any cuts before they become infected. Living with diabetes isn’t easy, but sharing the news with a few important people can be helpful.