“My son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 3, so it took some time for us to master a new lexicon that had suddenly become
part of our daily language: ketones, glucagon, hypoglycemia, and the list goes on. For the first few weeks after diagnosis we moped around the
house, afraid to leave for fear of restaurants and grocery stores, puzzled at how to check a blood sugar in the car with a kid in a car seat.
During this time, Henry had lots of questions about his “dia-bee-bees.”
Even in those early days after diagnosis, when someone referred to my son as “a diabetic” it irked me in a way I didn’t fully yet understand.
When I broke the news of Henry’s diagnosis to friends and family, I closed the email with, “Henry is a healthy 3-year-old boy, who also happens to have diabetes.”
In those early murky days, when I was struggling to understand the difference between Lantus and Humalog, it was always clear to me that Henry was a person before he was “a diabetic.”
The 2016 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes is out, and there’s a huge shift in the lexicon surrounding diabetes. The Summary Revisions section declares,
“In alignment with the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA’s) position that diabetes does not define people, the word ‘diabetic’ will no longer be used when referring
to individuals with diabetes in the ‘Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.’ The ADA will continue to use the term ‘diabetic’ as an adjective for complications related to
diabetes (e.g., diabetic retinopathy) (54.)’”
“Diabetic” is an adjective for complications related to diabetes, not my kid. My kid is a person with diabetes. Sure, “person with diabetes” (PWD) is more awkward
to say; there’s three additional syllables, and the language is obviously stretching to avoid labels, but the change in perspective can be life-enlightening.”
Person with diabetes vs. “diabetic”?
This was talked about often at our Iowa Diabetes Summit this past Friday. We learn early in PT school that it isn’t proper to call someone by a disease or disorder…. but sometimes you forget and say something because it’s just “quicker”. If we as an organization say we are person-centered….let’s make an effort to show empathy and show that we see a person first, ahead of their disease or disorder.
I like this definition from AADE: Diabetic should be reserved for descriptions of things and as an adjective. It is correct and acceptable to say diabetic neuropathy or diabetic socks or diabetic medications. It is not proper to say a word ending in “ic” as a noun; “______ is a diabetic.” It labels a person by a disease.
In case you were wondering…. “Help a Diabetic Child” is absolutely a great name and follows the adjective rule. J
Check these links for further dialogue on the matter:
This also goes for other diseases and conditions….
“He is a quadriplegic” vs. He is a person with quadriplegia.
“His mother is a stroke victim” vs. His mother had a stroke.
“Our Parkinson’s participants” vs. Our participants with Parkinson’s Disease.