It is my belief that a diabetes support group only needs two people to meet over a cuppa to get started. That might be a simplistic view of it but that’s what it is. The Clare Type 1 Diabetes Group story, so far….
The Co. Clare Diabetes Support Groups started in 2008 with our type 1 group meeting in the foyer of a local hotel. We met every month but in recent years we assessed that was too frequent and now we meet every second month from September to June.
By mid 2015, we had grown in numbers that we had to hire a meeting room, which we were already doing on the alternative months for our type 2 diabetes group. We are funded by the Clare branch of Diabetes Ireland.
Occasionally, we invite guest speakers from the medical community or successful people living with diabetes. In recent years, we have invited IRFU, Rugby World Cup referee and person with diabetes, George Clancy and Neil Pakey, CEO of Shannon Airport/Shannon Group. From the healthcare community our guest speakers have included dietitians, diabetes nurse specialists, GP’s with a special interest in diabetes, counsellors and podiatrists.
While the group is specifically for adults living with type 1 diabetes we welcome parents of children with diabetes too. Sometimes, they can’t travel to the parent groups or there isn’t one in their area but they still want to connect with the type 1 community. It’s reassuring for them to see adults living well with type 1 diabetes and gives them hope for their own children.
On occasion, people with type 2 diabetes, who do not use insulin, have attended our meetings. We always welcome them. However, we do tell them that they may feel a bit lost, and we educate them a little about the differences between the types of diabetes. We also provide them with information on where they can find the kind of support that they came looking for at our meeting.
Setting up your diabetes support group
Find out if there is already a group in your area - no sense in reinventing the wheel.
1. Decide who the group is for?
Adults with type 1
Parents of children with diabetes
Adults with type 2 diabetes.
Each group of people with diabetes has specific needs in terms of support and it’s good to address these separately. However, each group can also learn from each other so sometimes it’s good to be together.
What about partners and friends?
It can be difficult for a person to walk into a room where they don’t know anyone. Opening your group to partners and friends might encourage the shy or newly diagnosed to join without trepidation. We also know that while you may be the person diagnosed with diabetes, your family lives with it too. An additional benefit to inviting partners and friends is that it also raises awareness about type 1 diabetes outside of the community.
2. What is the purpose of your group?
Support groups - are groups of people who are able to talk with others who are like themselves - people who truly understand what they're going through and can share the type of practical insights that can only come from firsthand experience. Having a support group can make you feel less lonely or stressed and give you a sense of control over your situation. Source; http://www.wikihow.com/Start-a-Support-Group
Sometimes support gets confused with advocacy and if people come to your group looking for support but find advocacy they may not return and vice versa. However, support groups can lead to advocating for better health services for people with diabetes but use a different space for that or only let it take up some of the group’s time.
N.B. It is important to know that unless you are a medical professional you cannot and should not give another person medical advice. You can talk about your experience handling similar situations but always remember that no two people with diabetes are the same and what works for one person may not work for another. This advice is for your own protection as well as for others.
3. Selecting a location for your group.
You can either pick a date, venue and time and then advertise or you can advertise that you are starting a group and if anyone is interested in attending such a group to contact you.
I find that it’s good to start the group with at least two people as “leaders”. It helps to share the workload and the ideas.
Try to pick a location for the meetings that is accessible to as many people as possible. If you live in a rural area try meet in the nearest large town. If you live in a city, try and meet somewhere that is accessible for people travelling from a distance.
4. Let People know about your group
O.K. You’ve got a date, a time and a place, how do you let people know?
When you advertise your meetings give a brief description of the purpose of the group, who the meetings are for and how to get in touch with you if people have questions. Always let people know that the group is free to attend.
Where do you advertise?
There are LOTS of places to advertise for free.
Email the information to the local newspapers for inclusion in their community notes.
Email a notice to the Parish Newsletter
Post on www.boards.ie
Post on the many Diabetes Facebook groups
if your group is affiliated with Diabetes Ireland they will put your meetings on their website and social media feeds.
Your group members may request to receive an email or text to remind/let them know about the next meeting. Group webtexts are free.
5. Your First Meeting.
At your first meeting, the group can decide on the following together;
How often do you want to meet?
Where should you meet?
If you want a formal setting, try to obtain free or low cost meeting space that is comfortable and that people can get refreshments if they want to. Sometimes, pubs have private rooms that they offer for free or a hotel reception/foyer area for a small group.
If you want to keep it really casual; a quiet corner of the local pub might be suitable but make sure people feel comfortable enough to talk.
What format is the meeting going to take?
Do you want to have pre-determined topics, if so how will you choose?
Or have a completely casual approach?
How or will you maintain contact with each other, e.g. email list, facebook group, etc?
- You might also consider affiliating yourselves with Diabetes Ireland as solely a peer support group.
There are several benefits to setting up your support group under the auspices of a larger organization, if you can. A larger organization can often offer resources and assistance in setting up a new support group. The name recognition that comes with affiliating with a big, well-known organization can give your group more credibility. It can also make it easier for people who need your support group to find you. (Source: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/enhancing-support/peer-support-groups/main)