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Learning to Handle Diabetes Mistakes


Updated January 28, 2012

Learning to Handle Diabetes Mistakes

Mistakes happen. Especially when we are trying to do something that is difficult and challenging, whether it is math or diabetes.

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Giving yourself the opportunity to learn from mistakes:

Living with diabetes is a journey that is anything but a straight, smooth path. There are many winding turns, rocky ledges, valleys and even treacherous landscapes that threaten your health and peace of mind. Given the challenge of navigating all that diverse diabetes terrain, it should come as no surprise that mistakes along the way are inevitable.

Diabetes-related mistakes come in all sizes and shapes. Some are as simple as forgetting to bring along a glucose snack while on an outing. Other mistakes, like taking too much insulin before driving, can be quite serious. The goal is to always do your best to manage your diabetes but also realize that you will never be able to perfectly manage your blood sugar.

Whether you are managing your own blood glucose or parenting a child with type 1, here are tips on how you can give up the expectation of being perfect while doing your best.

Resist blaming

When mistakes happen, the reflexive response for some people is to blame someone. Blaming seems to make us feel better, unless we are the one at fault. Instead of blaming yourself, your spouse or your child, seek understanding of how the mistake occurred, learn from it and move on.

Admit your inability to completely control diabetes

Over the years we’ve learned a lot about diabetes and how to effectively manage it most of the time. But, there are some blood glucose highs and lows that result from things we simply cannot control. These factors might be related to stress, sickness, hormones, environmental situations, foods or some other reason. Diabetes will never be completely under our control. There will always be some variables that we won’t be able to manage as well as we would like. Give yourself the benefit of doubt when you encounter glucose fluctuations you can’t figure out and start afresh the next day.

Treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn about your diabetes

When mistakes happen, try to think like a scientist. Ask yourself a series of questions:

  • How did this mistake happen? Was it an oversight, miscalculation, lack of education, a result of being inattentive, etc.?
  • Could it have been prevented? If so, how?
  • What can we learn from this situation and how it played out?
  • What could we do differently next time to prevent this same situation from repeating?

Try to answer these questions honestly and objectively without trying to find fault with anyone. Doing so will enable you to problem-solve the error in a way that leads to a greater understanding of how to prevent similar mistakes.

Consult with your diabetes healthcare team if the same mistakes recur

Some errors are related to a lack of insight or education about diabetes-related management. For example, say you awaken most morning with high blood sugar. You’ve already experimented with cutting back on your food intake before bed and adjusted your insulin dose and yet have no solution to the problem.

Obviously, something is askew in your management. Instead of blaming yourself, reach out for help. Consult with one or more members of your diabetes health care team. It might take more than one phone call or visit to get to the bottom of what’s going on. But, there is a solution. Though it may not work every time, because nothing in diabetes management works that reliably, it will be a solution that will enable you to keep managing your diabetes with a strong sense of empowerment. And by giving yourself permission to make mistakes along the way, you retain that sense of empowerment and hope as you live with diabetes.


American Diabetes Association. "Mistakes Happen.”

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