7 Ways to Advocate for Yourself About Your Type 1 Diabetes

This edited excerpt is from The Savvy Diabetic – A Survival Guide (reprinted by permission):

Your own health is more important and critical to you than it is to anyone else in the world. That’s why it’s vital that you communicate your concerns and needs. Here are some things to consider in how to be the best advocate for yourself that you can be:

1. Yes, the doctor has specialized training and knowledge and certainly authority to prescribe, but it is up to you to work cooperatively with your doctor, to fully understand your own health issues, to participate in the management of your medications, and to report concerns and communicate what you need. No one could possibly know more about how you are feeling than you.

2. The doctor’s office can be very intimidating and a bit overwhelming. It is easy to get flustered and feel out of control. But try to remember that while the doctor and staff are busy running the practice, you need to get their attention and get your needs addressed. One thought is to write down your questions before your appointment and make a copy for the doctor to work from during his/her time with you.

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3. During the visit, write down important discussion issues and treatment plans. Then ask to clarify: “Let me repeat what I think I understood…is that correct?”

4. Ask all of your health care providers what the best way is for you to communicate with them and their office staff. Be sure to ask who you go to with problems or questions. Assure them that you will only communicate with them about important issues, as you value their time.

5. Ask how to handle prior authorizations and denials from your insurance company. This is happening more and more frequently. You need to be able to communicate with your doctor or a designated staff person to resolve these issues.

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6. Designate someone as your advocate. Use the team approach whenever you can. If at all possible, bring someone to serve as a second set of ears. Using a team approach is even more important if you are in the ER or hospital. There is a lot of activity in a hospital and lots of personnel coming and going. You are often confined to bed, so a mobile advocate is invaluable.

7. It is critical to ask questions, especially when you are in the ER. While I was in graduate school, I once had to go to the emergency room for a non-diabetes-related issue. The doctor ordered an IV with electrolytes, and in the middle of the night, a nurse changed the IV bag. An hour later I started to feel flushed and headachy. We asked what was in the IV bag and were told it was a saline-and-glucose solution. I reached for my blood glucose meter and tested – 400 mg/dL! Better to ask too many questions than too few.

Editor’s Note: Advocating for yourself is a lifetime practice. Take time to evaluate how well you communicated your needs from time to time, and don’t be too frustrated with yourself if you see room for improvement. Practice makes perfect.

If you would like to buy The Savvy Diabetic – A Survival Guide, you can do so at

This excerpt has been edited for length.

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Joanne Laufer Milo is the author of The Savvy Diabetic: A Survival Guide and Healthcare Organizer ~ All about You for The Savvy Patient. She’s been involved with JDRF since its inception, and manages Girls’ Night Out, a support group with over 80 Type 1 members. Her career has ranged from corporate marketing to teaching fitness and yoga. She currently resides in southern California where she shares her life with her loving husband, Richard, and their two joyful pups, Hey Buddy and Bon Bon.

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