Diabetes Labels: Non-Compliant


Have You Been Labeled Non-Compliant? Don't accept that. You deserve better than that label. Here's what Peg Abernathy has to say about it. 


For many many reasons, I do NOT agree with the phrase, “non-compliant diabetic.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are people with diabetes out there who truly don’t care about their management or the consequences of ignoring their condition. I personally have known a few and the end result was not good. But, digging deeper into “why” they don’t care, I often find a person who is frustrated, overcharged, overwhelmed and just plain angry about having to deal with a chronic condition. That’s an important distinction. 

And I say to the diabetes healthcare community at large, unless you’ve lived with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes yourself, you cannot truly understand the depth and breadth of what it takes to manage such a random, and often times, unpredictable condition every single day of your life. I would say that if our treatment protocol would produce the exact same result every single time, no matter what the circumstances, then managing either type 1 or type 2 diabetes would be a much easier approach. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. So, at the very least, don’t call a person non-compliant and then leave the exam room. That’s not helping anyone. I encourage you to start there.

Are You a Winner or a Loser?

This is a true story that actually happened to me. But before I share this, let me say that I love Certified Diabetes Educators. (CDE’s) They are my heroes. I see them on the front lines, working countless hours every day, and engaging with their patients in ways that are typically way above and beyond the call of duty. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.

That being said...

Many years ago, I met with a (new to me) CDE who had been around for a long time. On the day of my first meeting with her, I was ushered into her office and I sat down in a hard chair across from her desk. Soon, she entered the room, walked around me and sat down with a thud, a sigh and a curt hello. She was stern looking and very serious, and honestly, I was taken by surprise at her general demeanor. She opened my file on her desk, read some notes in my chart and checked out my most recent blood work and then slowly closed the folder. 

Folding her hands on the top of my chart, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “In this office, we only like diabetes winners, NOT diabetes losers. So I have to ask you: are you a diabetes winner or loser?” 

I stared back at her, blinked a few times, and then wondering if I had heard her correctly, I replied, “Excuse me?” 

She then repeated herself, “Are you a diabetes winner or a loser?” 

Frankly, I was taken aback and intimidated by her forceful nature. I looked at her and quietly said, “...Winner?” 

Ha! I have to laugh at myself when I think about this now as I know for a fact that my answer to her back then was NOT the answer I would have given today. Today, my answer would have been something like, “Well, let me check…hmmmm...whelp, I’m still alive and breathing so yes, I’m a winner. You?” 

The point of this story is that I do not need judgment added to my already all-consuming, life-disrupting and pressure-inducing condition. And, even though I know that some people find this type of scenario a challenge to rise up to, I do not. And I don’t want to get a feeling of dread every time I go to my Endo or CDE. It’s not healthy for me and it does not help me in any way whatsoever. It took me a while to understand wholly, that my doctor works for me, not the other way around. I now have a team in place that works with me through challenges and victories. And they get the fact that diabetes is extremely complicated, constantly changing and individual. They understand that I have a hectic and random lifestyle on top of this hectic and random condition. It took me quite a while to put together this team and it feels so good! I finally feel like I have a team working with me rather than judging me. 30 years of type 1 diabetes and I’m still breathing! Yes, I’m a winner.


Some Things Healthcare Providers Need to Remember

  1. Most of us really try hard to manage our condition, but some days, it manages us. 

  2. Those of us with random lifestyles need a different type of approach to management.

  3. Take into account our support system, starting with our insurance coverage.

  4. Help us to not give up on our diabetes management out of frustration or judgment.

  5. We need you…


On we go…


About Peg Abernathy:

Peg Abernathy is a writer, activist and spokesperson for diabetes awareness, education and legislative reform. Her media work includes four years as a contributing diabetes columnist on The Huffington Post and three years as producer, writer and on-air talent, Sirius Radio, The Lime Network. Her diabetes sales and sales training corporate career includes early tenure at two successful insulin pump start-ups as well as various blood glucose monitoring companies. She has also served as a consultant in the diabetic retinopathy space. Ms. Abernathy is a current member of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Community Leadership Board, Los Angeles, California and former Chair of the ADA Advocacy Committee, Los Angeles. 

Follow her on twitter: @diabetesmedia 



Posted in Blog, Guest Authors, Mental Health, Your Health Care Team

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