Family Medicine Publications

Beyond the Sick Role: The Many Roles of Adults With Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in the Management of Hypoglycemia—The InHypo-DM Study, Canada

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Canadian Journal of Diabetes





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Objectives: Hypoglycemia is a common adverse event for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. In this article, we explore the specific roles that individuals assume to prevent or treat hypoglycemia. Methods: A descriptive qualitative study from the UnderstandINg the impact of HYPOglycemia on Diabetes Management Study (InHypo-DM) research program. A purposive sample of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes were recruited for semistructured interviews. There were 16 participants (women and men), who were, on average, 53 years old. Average time since diagnosis was 15 (type 1) and 21 (type 2) years; all patients had at least 1 hypoglycemic event in the past year. Individual and team analysis of interviews were conducted to identify overarching themes. Results: Participants articulated 4 roles in preventing or treating hypoglycemia. The first role was being a manager by assuming ownership and accountability for their own glycemic control. The second role, being a technician, used both subjective and objective information and employed specific strategies to respond to hypoglycemic events. The third role, educator, extended beyond self-management to increase others’ awareness of hypoglycemia. The fourth role, advocate, involved championing one's own needs during a hypoglycemic event. These 4 roles were, in turn, influenced by the contexts of work, social settings, exercise and travel. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that strategies that individuals use to avoid or reduce the severity of a hypoglycemic event extend beyond merely making impromptu decisions during events. Instead, these 4 roles of manager, technician, educator and advocate, embedded in specific contexts, enhanced their mastery in managing hypoglycemia in daily life.

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