We like to call them LIFESTYLE GROUPS, as there is a stigma society has attached to the words “support group”. When you hear those words you immediately form a picture in your mind of depressed, pale, quivering people sitting in a circle, complaining about their lives! This is the biggest misconception of what a ‘Lifestyle Group’ is. Our Lifestyle Groups are actually happy interactive experiences, with great fun taking place in a lovely relaxed atmosphere.
There are many reasons why we run Lifestyle Groups. Our desire is to educate and encourage every group member to take ownership of their health. The group helps the person living with diabetes receive up to date dietary and healthcare information. We have a wonderful database of doctors, diabetes nurse educators, dietitians, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, nephrologists, dermatologists, psychologists and many other healthcare professionals, who share their expertise during group discussions.
Our Lifestyle Group leaders are fully educated on the topic of diabetes, plus many are healthcare professionals. They have good communication skills and are able to establish a good relationship with all members attending their group, as people living with diabetes often tend to feel different, and most of the time have misconceptions about themselves. Once they have been to a Lifestyle Group and shared their experiences with the other members in the group, they come to realise that others actually experience things the same way they do.
The person living with diabetes is also able to speak openly and share ideas about their diabetes, discussing emotional problems or feelings they might have. We have found that there are many people who need support in some way or another, especially those in poorer communities who may not have been exposed to lifestyle, health ordietary education before.
For a newly diagnosed diabetic, a Lifestyle Group can be a great experience. They need a lot of support – from their healthcare team, as well as their family members. In many cases, we see that family members find it much harder to cope with the situation than the person with diabetes. We deal with diabetes as a family issue. Many families with a diabetic member in the family have to go through drastic changes as a result of this person being diagnosed; their whole lifestyle has to change. They all have to eat more healthily and perhaps start an exercise regime.
Unfortunately, there is a great misconception that exists amongst people who have been living with diabetes for many years - they “know it all” and don’t need advice or help with their diabetes care. Science has progressed at such a rate, that what was appropriate five years ago, may not be relevant today. Dietary advice for example has changed radically in the last 10 years, and there is no longer a specific “diabetic diet”. It is a healthy way of eating that should be adopted by the whole family, and in fact, society in general.
Diabetes is a serious condition, and education is the key to living a long, healthy and complication-free life. Join one of our lifestyle groups today!!
Written by Jenny Russel