For our March 3, 2015 Twitter chat article on family, communication and diabetes, we welcomed our very own diabetes advocate and in-house therapist Dr. Gary McClain (@DrGaryJGD).

Dr. Gary special guest talking about family communication and diabetes

Dr. Gary has years of experience and a wealth of knowledge in helping diabetics cope with their diagnosis and improve their familial relationships.

Pleasure of speaking with you today, Dr. Gary #DCDE Twitter chat

Our beloved Jewels Doskicz (@She_Sugar), RN and Diabetes Patient Advocate, hosted the Twitter chat and shared some of her experience in dealing with type 1 diabetes in her family.

We started off with some brief introductions, with some people tuning in from across the globe:

Wife living in Singapore with type 2 diabetes

type 1 diabetes

Question 1

Then we started off with this question:
What do you wish your support system understood about diabetes?

Dr. Gary jumped in right away with words of sympathy:
frustrating when family members don't want to know about diabetes

But then he told us that "It can help to get the ball rolling with a question: What would you like to know about what it's like to live with diabetes?" This way we can eliminate misunderstanding and promote communication between us, the diabetes patients, and them, our loving family members.

Others said that family members just don't understand that diabetes is different for everybody and can't always be controlled:

one size doesn't fit all for diabetes care

sometimes don't want to do your best for diabetes management, get burnt out

diabetes is often time guess and act not science

Others want their loved ones to understand that diabetes sometimes comes with mood fluctuation:

moodiness brought about by low blood sugar readings for diabetics

Question 2

In our next question we addressed the potentially harmful situation of people judging us and our diabetes:
How do you feel when other people pass judgment on you and your diabetes?

Dr. Gary said that judgment can hurt our self-esteem:
judgment on diabetes care can hurt self-esteem

Then he tried to explain why some people may be quick to judge:
people act out when they are afraid

family members of those with diabetes sometimes feel helpless

He then encouraged us to confront our family members directly about the judgment we feel:
direct approach to confronting misunderstandings and diabetes

Others said that we shouldn't be blamed for our diabetes, including Maureen Sullivan, who is an RN, CDE and CEN:

diabetes should be blame free

you try being your own pancreas

While others saw that the root of the judgment is probably lack of diabetes education:
easy to get angry about diabetes misconceptions, but must address them so others can understand

diabetes misunderstanding is a good opportunity to educate

Question 3

We moved on to how diabetes and family relationships intertwine and asked,
How has diabetes affected your family dynamics?

Many people were positive about how diabetes has affected their family. Even though they recognize the challenge, many agreed that it creates a sense of family bonding when approached the right way.

wife is supportive even though feel like a burden with diabetes

more open about health and nutrition with family because of diabetes

understand each other after many years of having diabetes

diabetes can make you stronger as a family

Jewels recognized the need for balance:
balance is key when dealing with diabetes and family life

Dr. Gary advised that the whole family get on board when a family member is diagnosed with diabetes:
everybody receives the diagnosis when one person is diagnosed, need to be one unit

Question 4

We followed with the question:
What are some ways to help people understand diabetes?

Dr. Gary had a lot of helpful advice about when to share and how to understand others' thought processes:
look for teachable moments

people may be afraid to ask about your diabetes

be open about your diabetes

Others agreed that being open is key to helping others understand diabetes:
open and willing to educate those who don't have diabetes

share your feelings about diabetes

walk in a diabetic's shoes for a day

Question 5

Next we talked about integrating diabetes into our family life without it being the center of attention:
diabetes in the mix of life

Some suggested adding humor to diabetes and daily life:
humor with diabetes care

Others suggested that it takes time, talking and attention:
the more diabetes is talked about, the better

conscious decision

the sky isn't falling if you have diabetes. adjusting to it just takes time

Some said that when you're first diagnosed, diabetes is going to feel like it has taken over, but it gets better as you adjust to managing the disease:
diabetes management takes hours when you're first diagnosed

But, we should be okay when diabetes collides with family schedules:
schedules collide with diabetes management

And, Maureen reminded us that we are people who happen to have diabetes and it shouldn't consume our lives:

diabetes management shouldn't take over life enjoyment

Question 6

We concluded with this question:

why is it so hard for some people to understand diabetes?

Dr. Gary said that some people are in denial:
family members can ignore your diabetes because they're in denial

Others said it's hard for family members to grasp the full consequences of diabetes:
diabetes makes someone sick is hard to understand

Many boiled it down to bad education and information:
diabetes is different for every person

education is the key to less diabetes ignorance

people believe they're diabetes experts when they aren't


What a successful Twitter chat! We talked about some deep issues and learned some valuable information on how to manage family relationships and diabetes from Dr. Gary.

hope everyone has a good night #DCDE

Dr. Gary reminded us that we are not alone in our diabetes journey and you can find support here on Diabetic Connect:
you are not alone in diabetes

To learn more about our #DCDE Twitter chats:

How to Participate in a Twitter Chat
Diabetes and Carb Counting: #DCDE Twitter Chat Summary
Diabetes Burnout: #DCDE Twitter Chat Summary