Contributor: Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES
What is a diabetes peer support community?
One definition I found states that peer support is “support from a person who has knowledge from their own experiences with diabetes. This support can include people living with diabetes as well as a person affected by diabetes, such as an immediate family member or caregiver.”
Why is diabetes peer support important?
It provides a place to share advice or practical “hacks” about day-to-day living with diabetes, the knowledge you and others have gained through your diabetes journey, and of course, the support of others who know what you are going through. A support community can also be a place to learn about new developments or research in diabetes or become part of an advocacy group for diabetes causes. One of the most beneficial things about being part of a support community is that sharing with each other can minimize some feelings of isolation when living with diabetes.
Where can I find these types of peer support communities?
Face-to-face groups are typically available in most communities. If you are unsure where to find such a group, you might contact local hospitals, libraries, or churches and synagogues - many host such groups and could give you days and times they meet. Or reach out to the American Diabetes Association. They have local offices throughout the country in larger communities and host support groups. Some physicians will also offer “group follow-up appointments.” In this setting, there are usually between three and five patients who meet in a conference room to go over lab work and medications and discuss questions about their diabetes.
How can I find online diabetes support?
In the day and age of COVID-19, more people are looking to the internet to find a community. Online support communities have grown over the past decade but have become much more important in the last year. Diabetes online communities are typically people with diabetes or their caregivers but may also include health care professionals and diabetes foundations or associations. You can find these groups through social media, blogs, advocacy groups, diabetes associations, or government resources such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, you are participating in one such online diabetes community right now by reading this article! DiabetesSisters is one of about twenty support communities I found while researching for this article. I love that these online communities open you up to the world. People from all over the country and the world can participate. This can lead to some fascinating discussions on how people treat diabetes around the world. You may learn about medications or medical devices, such as pumps or glucose monitors, that you might not have known existed. Being a pharmacist, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that some medications used in other countries are not used in the US, typically because our FDA has not approved them. Some medications also have different brand names in other countries, so that can also be confusing.
Although diabetes communities can be beneficial in providing the support we all need, they are often online and public communities, so be careful with how much health information you share. Remember this information could be shared further without your permission. You should also remember these communities are meant for support, and you should not use them as a source of medical advice.
You can find a list of Diabetes Peer Support Communities in this resource from the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.
Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES received her bachelors from Purdue University (’94) and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma (’96). In 2000 Dr. Norman added to her credentials by becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator and staff pharmacist for Martin’s Pharmacy. Dr. Norman is a national faculty member for the American Pharmacist Association, teaching certificate programs in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She serves on the advisory board that oversees development and revision of these programs. Along with teaching and development responsibilities for APhA, Dr. Norman serves as a peer reviewer for research grants and publication submission. Dr. Norman has also spoken for Abbott, Bayer, Lilly, Mannkind, and Lifescan as a diabetes specialist.