By Athena Philis-Tsimikas, M.D.
When you’re living with type 2 diabetes, you know how important it is to check your blood sugar, eat the right foods, and stay active. But being aware of these actions and actually doing them consistently can be two very different things.
This is where a diabetes support group can go a long way toward successfully managing your diabetes. Connecting with other people who have diabetes can help you stay motivated to take care of yourself by offering both practical and personal support. According to a study published in the January 2012 issue of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, people with type 2 diabetes who attend support groups are more successful at maintaining — or even improving — their health.
Here are just a few of the benefits diabetes support groups offer:
1. Community Means You’re Never Alone
It’s common for people living with diabetes to feel isolated, especially if you’ve been recently diagnosed or don’t have any family or friends with the disease. A diabetes support group can help you realize you’re far from alone. You’ll meet an entire group of people who understand what you’re going through and are happy to offer guidance and encouragement.
2. Practical Advice Makes Managing Blood Sugar Easier
Support groups can provide a wealth of information and ideas on ways to make managing diabetes easier, such as diabetes-friendly recipes the whole family can enjoy, tips for eating right at holiday parties and work events, and local resources for people with diabetes. Plus, you may meet new friends to exercise and do other activities with.
3. Personal Connection Is What Makes Diabetes Support Groups So Effective
When you’re living with diabetes, taking care of yourself is a priority. If you are caring for a family, have a demanding job, or have other responsibilities, you may feel overwhelmed at times — and caring for yourself may fall by the wayside. Support group members often have the same challenges and can help you through the tough times and keep you on track.
4. Guest Speakers and Special Events Connect You to New Research, Therapies, and Community
Some diabetes support groups feature guest speakers such as physicians, researchers, and other experts who talk about the latest findings in diabetes management or share their perspectives. Additionally, groups may have special events such as potlucks, group walks, or fundraisers.
Most larger cities offer in-person support groups that meet regularly and are led by a facilitator, but there also are a number of online groups available 24/7 for people who live in smaller towns or who may not have the time or transportation to attend in person. Your physician or diabetes care manager may be able to recommend a group; the links below may also be helpful. It’s a good idea to check out several groups if possible to find the right one for you.
Find a diabetes support group near you via the Defeat Diabetes Foundation.
For a list of national online support groups, visit the American Diabetes Association.
Watercolor: Diana Ong