MISS MANNERS MEETS DIABETES

Lessons in etiquette for people who care about people with diabetes



 

They love you, they care about you, and they mean well, but they sure can be annoying sometimes. “They” are our husbands, wives, siblings, children, relatives and friends. When it comes to diabetes, everyone seems to have an opinion or advice. In general, unsolicited advice is unlikely to be well received.

And when it comes to diabetes, it seems a lot of the opinions and advice are based on outdated or inaccurate information — and just plain wrong.

It’s not clear why everyone thinks they know something about diabetes. Millions of people live with heart disease and high blood pressure, and these conditions, though they require many of the same lifestyle decisions as does diabetes, don’t bring out the latent doctor in others. But just mention the “D” word, and you’re bound to elicit a flood of comments ranging from “Should you really eat that?” to “My Aunt Hilda lost her leg.” It’s often worse when you have to live with the person doing the commenting.

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To navigate this sea of words, you can chart several courses. One is to simply ignore them. Another is to tell your well-intentioned fill-in-the-blank to be quiet and leave you alone. The last is to fight fiction with fact. While the first two options may make you feel better, they don’t offer long-term solutions to a problem that won’t go away by itself — unless you plan on divorcing your spouse, never speaking to your children and becoming a hermit.

So the last alternative seems best. Happily, there is a useful tool you can use. In fact, you can even carry copies in your wallet or purse.

Arresting the Diabetes Police 

Dr. William Polonsky, founder of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute and a leading authority on the mental aspects of living with diabetes, coined the term “diabetes police” many years ago. To help combat the potentially harmful and unproductive effects of uninformed and unwanted advice given to people with diabetes, Polonsky came up with a handy pocket guide titled Diabetes Etiquette for People Who Don’t Have Diabetes.

You can download a copy from the Institute’s website (www.behavioraldiabetesinstitute.org)

Don’t do diabetes alone 

The bottom line is that you may hate to be nagged about your diabetes, but it’s a hard job you didn’t ask for, that you have to do, and there are no days off. Who wants to go through that alone? No one, which is why it’s so important to make your family and friends your biggest allies — not enemies — in controlling diabetes.

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Chris Leach was the founding editor of numerous diabetes publications, including Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Health Matters. A lifelong entrepreneur, he also founded New Jersey Monthly and was part of the team that created ESPN, the Magazine. Chris passed away in 2013.