Changing the way we talk about complications: why language matters

Chris Aldred, AKA ‘The Grumpy Pumper’ visited the ACBRD to share his insights on the need to talk more often and more constructively about the complications of diabetes.

By Dr Elizabeth Holmes-Truscott


At the ACBRD, we talk a lot about the language of diabetes (pun intended). In brief, the aim of the #languagematters movement is to raise awareness of the power of words – to reduce the use of inaccurate, judgmental, and unhelpful communications about and with people with diabetes across all settings. Chris Aldred (aka ‘The Grumpy Pumper’) has lived with type 1 diabetes for 25 years. He is an active member of the Diabetes Online Community. He has recently built upon Diabetes UK’s #TalkAboutDiabetes campaign, generating a much-needed focus on #TalkAboutComplications. On Friday 17 Aug, we had the pleasure of hosting a seminar at the ACBRD at which ‘Grumps’ shared his experiences and insights. Ascensia Diabetes Care funded Grumps’ trip to Australia and organised the meeting.

After developing a foot ulcer, Grumps noticed how little we talk about diabetes complications – by ‘we’, he means people with diabetes, health professionals, researchers and diabetes organisations, alike. Importantly, he noticed that when we do talk about complications, the words used are often, inaccurate, unhelpful or harmful. In an attempt to start a constructive conversation about complications, Grumps turned to the Diabetes Online Community (#DOC, #GBDOC, #OzDOC) to share his perspective and his journey. He has opened a floodgate! More and more people with diabetes are sharing their experience of complications: diagnoses, management and conversations with health professionals. Check out the discussions on twitter (#talkaboutcomplications) and on Grumps’ blog.

Grumps told us that an all too common theme among those sharing their experiences was that they hadn’t previously talked about their complications, largely because they didn’t want to be judged or blamed for developing a complication of diabetes. He highlighted that when he was first diagnosed with diabetes, some 25 years ago, there was neither the education nor the tools to manage diabetes particularly well. Like many others, he did the best he could with the information and resources he had available to him. He got on with fitting diabetes self-care into his life, learning as he went. Grumps stressed that it is more accurate and less stigmatising to view complications as a hazard of living with diabetes, and not as a sign of failure.

To read more about this topic, check out this article published in The PLAID Journal, co-authored by Grumps and Renza Scibilia. You can also join in the discussion on twitter by using the #talkaboutcomplications hashtag.

To read more about language matters, check out our other blogs on this topic.

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