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Support Groups Are Key to Successful Diabetes Management

By Theresa Anderson, CDE

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Diabetes support groups are forming across the U.S. Some are in the form of online blogs, and others meet together in groups. Some support groups are more casual among friends with diabetes where they may get together to walk, form cooking groups or just chat over a cup of coffee.

In some communities, there are support groups for men or women specifically. Some communities have groups for couples, Latinos, other ethnic groups and families with children who have diabetes.

Support Group Benefits

The benefits of these groups are many. Sometimes a person with diabetes can feel very alone and “different.”  Support groups are important and helpful to people with diabetes because they provide opportunities to meet others who share similar medical and emotional concerns.

By meeting with others who have diabetes, members of the group feel that others truly “get” what they are experiencing. By sharing their experiences, group members can feel part of a community and gain a greater sense of value and power from this feeling of belonging.

Some groups offer regular speakers presenting a variety of topics related to diabetes. Members in these groups frequently feel learning something new (or even hearing it again and again) and staying abreast of even controversial topics has helped them dramatically with their diabetes self-management - and stimulated them to learn more. Many have experienced dramatic improvements in blood sugars, Hemoglobin A1C averages and reducing risk of complications.

Many times the group will spotlight a person with diabetes who shares their victories and struggles to serve as inspiration to others. As one participant once said, “We are not just pretty diabetics…we have other talents!”

Getting Started

For those who are somewhat hesitant to join a group, it may also be helpful to first speak with the person running the group before attending or joining:

Inquire about the person’s credentials, how he or she sees the purpose of the group, and how it will be run. Make a list of what you want to get from the group and ask how the group may help meet those goals. Bring up any concerns you may have.

In choosing a diabetes support group that is best for you, you may want to try it for a few sessions before making a decision. Effective groups welcome new members readily - they appreciate how each person’s new insight can lead to their own growth and improvement with diabetes. One member advised others, “Give it time. I was resistant to hearing anything positive when I first started, but after coming again and again, I’m hooked, and both my diabetes and I have benefited greatly. I never miss a meeting now.”

We hold a diabetes support group on the second Tuesday each month at 5:30 p.m. at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. Most of our affiliated hospitals offer support groups as well: Find a group near you.

Learn more about diabetes services at Good Samaritan.