As you know, your health care team can do a lot to help you manage your diabetes. But research shows working with others who have diabetes, or your peers, can also help with your self-care efforts.
A peer is a person who is similar to you. Although peers may have other things in common with you, peer programs for diabetes are usually led by someone who has diabetes, or has lived with someone who has diabetes. This could be a spouse or parent, for example.
BENEFITS OF PEERS
There are a variety of programs led by peers with diabetes. Those programs help people with diabetes feel more confident in their ability to care for their diabetes and improve their health. They work because it is helpful to hear from other people who share your problems and concerns and have done well with them. The support of peers can help you reach your goals. It can also be a source of practical ideas for ways to cope with diabetes.
A good place to start is with your healthcare team. Your diabetes educator, local pharmacist, or healthcare provider may know of peer programs in your area. You also can go online to check out programs in your area or locate internet–based groups.
There are programs just for people with diabetes and some that are meant for people with different chronic diseases. Some are free, while others charge a small fee.
Leaders may have diabetes themselves, and have often been trained in leading groups. They may also be community health workers or others who have been trained about diabetes and group leadership, but may not have diabetes themselves. Once you find a peer program, find out if this program will meet your needs by asking the questions listed on the side of the page.
BECOMING A PEER LEADER
If there are no peer programs in your area, you may want to consider becoming a peer leader yourself! Once again, your healthcare team is a good place to start. Ask if they know of others with diabetes who would like to take part in this type of program, or if they know of training programs you could take. The training will give you skills you can use in other areas of your life and may also help you take better care of yourself.
Even if you are not able to find a peer program, let your healthcare team know you are willing to partner with someone else who has diabetes. If you go to a support group led by a health professional, ask others in the group if they would like to talk about diabetes outside of the group, or ask the leader to bring it up to the entire group. Then, those who are interested can sign up to be a peer.
It can help to talk with someone who has the same problems as you. A peer can help you better understand and cope with your own struggles or concerns. Once you connect with a peer, you can help someone else on his or her diabetes journey!
8 QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT A PEER PROGRAM
- What is the main purpose of the group?
- Who are the people who will attend?
- Are family members invited?
- Is education about the clinical care of diabetes included?
- What training does the peer leader have?
- Are health professionals involved in the sessions?
- What is expected of group members?
- Is the group free or is there a fee?