Language Matters + The Diabetes Community
Editor’s Note: This article was made possible with support from Dexcom, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication. Dexcom was a presenting sponsor of the TypeOneNation Virtual Summit: Viviendo sin Límites. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of the content published on its platforms.
Last Saturday, July 31, the TypeOneNation Virtual Summit in Spanish, Living without Limits, was held. One of the live sessions was led by Pilar Gómez, psychologist and founder of DiabetesLATAM, and Daniela Rojas, psychologist, diabetes educator, and co-founder of Diabetes Education for People with Diabetes (EDPD, for its acronym in Spanish) in Costa Rica. In this session, “El lenguaje importa y la comunidad de diabetes” (“Language Matters and the Diabetes Community”), we learned about the impact that language and the way we express ourselves have in how we accept, manage and live beyond type 1 diabetes.
LANGUAGE AND EMPOWERING WORDS
After speaking with her daughter, Gómez came to the conclusion that there are no specific words or languages that empower her, but receiving positive feedback empowers and helps her to be more open to receiving comments. When they feel morally low as a family, the opposite happens. Furthermore, families with diabetes feel empowered by receiving feedback that reminds them of how well they have worked and learned to manage the condition.
Rojas emphasized that when she was diagnosed more than 20 years ago, using the right language was not as important as it is today. “It was not a topic that was discussed,” Rojas said. What changed her life the most was when a new endocrinologist said, “Whatever you want to do, we can do it as long as you know how you are managing your condition.” Hearing that after hearing limitations and the language of fear became a motivating message that made a big difference in Roja’s life.
LANGUAGE AND NEGATIVE WORDS
According to Gómez, it is important that we also take into account the impact language has not only on those who live with diabetes but also on caregivers. When it comes to diabetes in children, we are all an audience and language empowers and saddens parents, too.
Rojas was told that she could not study, ride a bicycle, or do what she was used to doing and that caused her fear, and her parents made a difference by taking her through a therapeutic process that made a difference in her life. These demotivating words from an authority figure (the healthcare professional) sadly created a barrier in her acceptance of type 1 diabetes (T1D).
LANGUAGE MATTERS: THE LINK BETWEEN LANGUAGE AND EDUCATION
This document gives us the possibility to analyze the language that health professionals use in visits, among friends, with family, in schools, in the workplace. It is a document that talks about the importance of language for those of us living with type 1 diabetes.
Well-being living or caring for someone with diabetes has been the product of an educational process where emotional health has been key. “Inappropriate and demotivating language,” Gómez tells us, “would affect me more if I didn’t have diabetes education.”
“For there to be a language that empowers good relationships for human beings living with diabetes, caregivers and health professionals must go hand in hand with ongoing diabetes education,” said Rojas during this session.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
There are different publications and studies around the use of language. But all of them highlight that empowering language helps us to behave in a way that contributes to our well-being. Proper use of language can prevent a person from walking away from treatment. As human beings, according to Gómez, we avoid what hurts us.
Some points that are addressed in Language Matters: A UK Perspective are:
- Communicative and empathetic language should be used as it affects behavior and communication.
- Avoid blaming and stereotypical language to decrease stigma.
- Cultural differences should be considered when talking about diabetes.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE SPEAKERS
There is undoubtedly enough evidence to talk about the benefits that exist if we are especially careful in the use of language.
|Suffer from diabetes||Live with diabetes|
|Patient with diabetes||Person with diabetes|
|Controlling diabetes||Managing diabetes|
|You are not… (eating, taking insulin)||Maybe|
|You have to do better||Let’s work together to…|
LESSONS TO TAKE HOME
- We should also try to emphasize the positive aspects of our management, and also highlight our achievements.
- Avoid judging, being harsh and using stigmatizing language.
- Let’s create learning opportunities without using languages that exclusively highlight the negative aspects or that generate guilt.
If you missed this session, you will be able to watch it until August 31 on the TypeOneNation Virtual Summit in Spanish: Living Without Limits platform.