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Driven to distraction—the reality of managing diabetes every day


For those of us who take care of diabetes every day, life can be complicated—a lot more complicated than a person who doesn't have diabetes.

Every item we eat, every activity we perform and even just vegging in front of the TV requires consideration, foresight and decisions—all of the time.

Fortunately, you're in good company. Spend some time in an online diabetes forum to see what we mean.

Let's put it this way. Imagine a couple about to head out on a nice Sunday afternoon walk. Just before the walk, the person who doesn't have diabetes might think, "I wonder if it's chilly. Should I wear my jacket?"

But for the person who uses insulin to manage diabetes, heading out on that same walk requires a slightly more complex internal conversation:

"What is my blood sugar right now? It's a little high...good...I have room to drop during my walk. Of course, my insulin bolus from lunch is still mostly in me, so I could actually plummet while I walk. Better make sure I have a good supply of glucose tablets in my fanny pack. I also need to make sure I have my meter and strips in there. Maybe I should just eat a few peanut butter crackers before we go. But then I'll defeat the purpose of this walk! I had 30 grams of carbs with a decent amount of fat not long ago, that should do it. Do I need a jacket?"

Like it or not, if you're on insulin—or you care for a child or another person on insulin—diabetes changes your priorities.

With that in mind, forgive yourself if you're occasionally forgetful—the brain can only handle so much at one time. The mental hoops you jump through as you manage diabetes may overshadow everything else. Don't beat yourself up if you show up at your tennis match and realize you forgot the balls. Or if you left your sunglasses in a restaurant 20 minutes away. Let the people closest to you know about the constant mental workout you go through. They may be more understanding the next time you forget to turn off the lights before leaving home.

Meredith Rivers is a registered and licensed dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator® and medical and scientific liaison with Roche Diabetes Care, the makers of Accu-Chek® products. She has specialized in diabetes care for most of her career, and has been managing her type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years.

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