“A friend at work is diabetic, and I’ve never really thought about it before because he seems to handle it really well. But last month he had a scary episode where he started shaking and we had to put sugar on his tongue. How can I help him to feel okay about it?” Sini Webster
The word “diabetes” can lead to (unnecessary) concerns in the workplace about productivity and reliability. Co-workers who don’t have much information about the condition often feel unsure how to treat colleagues who are testing blood sugar, taking medication and possibly having hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) episodes during work time.
The person with diabetes may feel insecure, embarrassed and afraid of being seen as different: it can be difficult to know how to support or assist them.
The most important thing is to develop trust so that the person with diabetes knows that they will not be made fun of or penalised for having diabetes. Everyone involved needs accurate information about diabetes and how to manage it: good communication and co-operation lead to a healthier, more productive workplace.
The shaking was probably caused by an episode of low blood sugar. Other symptoms include sweating, heart palpitations, anxiety and – if the blood sugar is very low – disorientation.
It is important for those with diabetes to choose a few colleagues who know how to quietly assist and not panic:
- Encourage the person with diabetes to have either a few sweets, 2 to 4 teaspoons of sugar in a little water or half a glass of Coke or juice. If they are unable to swallow, place the sugar or some jam on their tongue.
- Once their blood sugar has been raised by the sugary food, they should have something healthy to eat to stabilise it: a piece of fruit or a slice of health bread and peanut butter.
- If possible, they should test their blood sugar at this point.
- If they are disorientated or unconscious, call an ambulance: it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator