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What to say to a newly diagnosed diabetic on your staff

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If you’ve learned that one of your employees has just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, what can you say? Lizann Reitmeier, our Health Practice Leader, has this advice to share.

Dear newly diagnosed friend,

What a coincidence. November is Diabetes Awareness Month. I am sorry that with your diagnosis you are now more aware of that than ever before. I know we both have close family members with this condition, so it is not unfamiliar, but I just wanted to remind you of a few things.

You didn’t cause this.

Type 2 diabetes is the body’s inability to create enough insulin or to properly use the insulin it is creating. While it is modifiable with diet and exercise for some people, you didn’t get it from eating sugar. Genetics play a role, so this is another thing you can blame on your parents.

It can sneak up on you. There are several factors beside genetics that put a person at risk for Type 2 diabetes. These include seemingly innocent things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Excess weight is also a culprit and of course, being over 40. There are some other, less well-known risks for Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Canada has a test to help identify risks that you can check our here. You should share this with your siblings too.

There is no cure.

Sorry to say, although there are amazing treatments. Insulin, the treatment for Type 1 diabetes, is almost 100 years old, and has advanced to provide more stability in blood sugar. Similarly, for Type 2 diabetes there have been significant advances in medication. Your new best friends, your diabetes team, will work to find the best fit for you. Like the drug formulations, delivery methods have come a long way. Advances in technology mean blood sugar is more easily moderated, eliminating highs and lows, and tracked. Type 1 diabetes is now better managed than ever, with the aid of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors that almost function like an artificial pancreas. The key to long term good health is avoiding time spent out of range…in either direction.

You are not alone. One in three Canadians is living with a form of diabetes or pre-diabetes. Sadly, Diabetes Canada is indicating that 20-year-old Canadians now face a 50 per cent chance of developing diabetes. I am sure this doesn’t make you feel better, but I thought you’d want to know.

You have a new best friend.

That one I mentioned before, your diabetes team. They hold a wealth of knowledge that can help you on this journey. Your team, in addition to your GP, will include an endocrinologist, who is like your GP, but immersed in all things related to diabetes, a diabetes educator and a dietician. You can tell them anything. And you should. These are professionals dedicated to improving the health of people with diabetes and they are key to a quality life. They will hook you up with just about everything you need. They can suggest tools and tips and tricks to minimize the impact of diabetes on your life and to maximize your efforts to maintain great health. By the way November 6 was Diabetes Educator Day. When you meet yours please send my thanks as well.

There are tools.

As always, knowledge is important. It will help you manage the disease and the diagnosis. Diabetes Canada has a tool box for the newly diagnosed. This site will help you understand diabetes and its treatment and it provides some supportive tips, including recipes and lifestyle hints.

Be thankful for your employer benefit plan.

Benefit plans cover the cost of insulin and many of the drugs to treat Type 2 diabetes and the drugs to manage blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as the cost of glucometers, lancets, and test strips. Many employers have expanded coverage to include insulin pumps and supplies, continuous glucose monitors and flash monitors. Some have coaching programs specifically directed at diabetes. Many have employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide counsellors who can help guide you through this life change, which will be an unwelcome source of stress, and dieticians who can keep you on track with healthy eating between visits with your team. And you may need some sick days. You may not feel your best as you adjust to new medications. Diabetes can also lower your resistance and make it harder to recover from those minor illnesses, so be careful with those handshakes—and get your flu shot! If you have questions about what your plan covers, check with HR or your group insurer.

Don’t forget to laugh.

Lastly dear friend, don’t forget to laugh. I recognize this is not something you wanted, but laughter truly is the best medicine. Many situations will seem overwhelming at the time, but they won’t seem so bad in the long run. Don’t forget to laugh whenever possible. It is good for your cardiovascular system and it has been proven to lower blood sugar.

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