Managing Diabetes at Work
If you think you're the only person with diabetes in your workplace, odds are you're mistaken. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) shows that diabetes now affects nearly 24 million people, or 8 percent of the population, in the United States. This represents an increase of more than 3 million people in approximately two years. In addition, it's estimated that 57 million have pre-diabetes, a condition that puts people at greater risk for diabetes.
Taking Care of Yourself
Tight controls around blood glucose levels are even more important at work due to the stress, hours, and schedule you may keep. Fortunately, you have the support of the federal and state government to make sure you have the necessary accommodations to best treat your condition.
Federal and state laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, protect individuals with disabilities (such as diabetes) from discrimination on the basis of disability in the workplace. Under this law, employers are also required to "reasonably accommodate" limitations imposed by an individuals disability. This is defined as modification or adjustment of a job, employment practice, or work environment that makes it possible for a qualified person with a disability to be employed. These accommodations must be provided unless doing so would pose "undue hardship" based on cost or other factors.
The good news is that accommodations for people with diabetes are easy and virtually cost-free. You need to take the time and space necessary to check blood glucose levels, self-administer medications, and eat or drink to manage blood glucose levels. Remember, the responsibility to manage your disease is yours, and it is essential that you ask for and take the necessary time to do this. It is also important to make sure you have a set schedule around meals and to make sure you can maintain your blood sugar levels.
Also make sure that you keep extra supplies and medications on hand in case of emergency or when your boss asks you to work late. Another good idea is to have a "snack pack" with you in the event that you can't get away to eat a regular meal.
Studies have shown that awareness around diabetes in the workplace has lowered the incidence of sick days amongst those with the disease as well as lowered health care costs. You can display posters and pamphlets with information on diabetes on the company bulletin boards, propose a walk/run for diabetes, or suggest that a diabetes educator give a talk about diabetes-friendly brown-bag lunch ideas.
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