Erin Dolan - World Diabetes Day 2022
This year the focus for World Diabetes Day is education and that is why we invited certified health coach Erin Dolan to join us to talk about diabetes. Erin is based in West Clare, is a mother of two, world traveller and a person with type1 diabetes. Erin offers advice and support to people with diabetes on mental health, nutrition, and lifestyle and this interview with Erin is no different.
Throughout this blog Erin shares with us her experiences with type 1 diabetes and how she remains confident in herself and how she manages the disease. We also discuss current issues in Ireland when it comes to diabetes along with life-changing technology that has helped so many people including Erin to live a fulfilled life.
When it comes to chronic illnesses, myths and stereotypes can be very harmful. Providing individuals with the correct information and education is imperative for a person in order to successfully manage diabetes. We raised this issue to Erin who helped us to debunk some of these issues,
“So yes there are many different myths. So, first of all there are not just two different types of diabetes but there is actually over eight and each type of diabetes is caused in different ways. Many people still believe that a large amount of sugar intake is a cause of diabetes, and this is just not true. I have type one diabetes which is an autoimmune disease, and I was diagnosed with this when I was ten. To treat my diabetes, I need to inject insulin daily, but this is not the case for all of the other types of diabetes. There are a wide range of treatments such as oral medications, lifestyle changes, and managing diet and nutrition. Often people clump diabetes all together and it is important to remember that people who have diabetes can live normal lives and can-do normal things”.
From our own work at Empeal we know that mental and physical health is extremely important when helping individuals with chronic conditions. Throughout the interview Erin also commented on this and gave very insightful advice,
“Diabetes is often known as an invisible disease as many people do not see the disease on the outside. However, inside there are definitely daily struggles when it comes to management. It is a 24/7 disease which you can’t take a break from. You have to be constantly in control of your glucose numbers and there are also so many factors that can raise or lower those glucose levels. There are three things I would recommend when it comes to mental wellbeing and balancing diabetes”.
“To find time for yourself and to take time to quiet the fulltime job that comes with diabetes. I would recommend people to get involved in meditation or self-care as it is so important to allow the mind to rest. Allow yourself to be present and to give yourself a break. For me I love sea therapy I recently have been going into the sea every day for diabetes awareness month, and it really allows me to reset my mind. However, taking time for yourself can involve anything that makes you feel good”.
“To be able to talk and connect with others about your diabetes is huge. It is so easy to hide it away from people and sometimes when you do that you begin to lack confidence and it also opens up dialogue which puts others in a better position to support you”.
“Building confidence in yourself is an important step. Setting and working toward goals can massively help with this. For me I built my confidence by challenging myself by participating and training for a marathon. Going after your goals is great for boosting your confidence”.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Diabetes is a complicated disease with many different factors and outside elements that can contribute to a good or bad day. Finding the right balance is critical in effectively managing the disease. Erin commented that,
“There are so many different factors that effect balance. Factors such as stress, adrenaline or illness can make your glucose levels go high while alcohol, exercise, and heat can make your glucose levels go low. From my experience I would say that there is no one size fits all when it comes to balance”.
Using Technology to Monitor Trends
The importance of utilising available health data cannot be underestimated as the proven benefits are huge. Advancements in modern technology have allowed people to easily track their health data on a day-to-day basis across all chronic illnesses. This can help healthcare teams to identify areas of risk or improvement within current pathways. With this information, they can work to correct areas where patient care is lacking and increase the quality of the overall experience of patients. Erin’s point of view on this topic was alike,
“It is important to be able to decipher trends for yourself to then relate this back to your diabetes support team to come up with personalised plans for yourself. This could involve recording your blood glucose levels throughout the day, and also recording your food intake and any other events that may happen such as exercise or stress. This can be done by writing it down in a diary or using technology such as apps to record it. Being able to see the trends in a big picture can really give you greater transparency of what factors are contributing and how they are impacting on your diabetes. For example, it is important to manage your stress levels when you have diabetes as it is a contributor in raising your glucose levels”.
Throughout the years diabetes technology has made diabetes management safer and simpler. Erin agreed with this statement and discussed how it has massively aided her life for the better.
“Technology has allowed me to be much more flexible especially in going after my goals.I have been able to take on more significant challenges that have tested my body. From running a marathon and racing in triathlons and cycling over the continental divide. The type of technology I use is a continuous glucose monitor and a flash insulin pump. These give me greater peace of mind as it gives you alerts before you go low or high in your glucose levels so you can easily adjust. It has massively boosted my confidence in managing diabetes and also allows for less injections”.
It can be argued that diabetes care and research in Ireland is not on par to other countries such as the UK. Although we have come a long way many individuals still struggle to find the right services and support they need. A lack of facilities and technology is still a significant issue in Ireland.
“Diabetes care in Ireland is so diverse from county to county and there is just no consistency in the care that you get. Getting access to diabetes technology across Ireland takes a log time. “In particularly the flash glucose monitoring is only available for people under 21 and otherwise if you are unable to get this technology you have to pay out of pocket. This is a pity as technology has the capabilities to improve the quality of life for people while reducing complications long term which can lead to less hospitalisations. Currently in Ireland there are long waiting times for certain diabetes care service and there is also a lack of mental health services and specialities which is quite frustrating for people. Having timely access to these services is important and could be so helpful and successful for many with diabetes. Alongside this there actually is no national diabetes registry in Ireland, so we have no idea how many people in Ireland have diabetes. If we did this we could better plan and allocate funds and services more accurately”.