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Managing Diabetes: An Employee/Employer Success Story

World Diabetes Day, November 14

As we celebrate National Diabetes Month this November, I sat down with David Morey, recently retired Senior Operating System Controller of General Electric, to understand how he managed his disability in a senior position and worked with his employer to continue his heavy workload. An overlooked disability that affects a significant amount of employees and jobseekers, diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States. In 2012 over 29 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes. In addition, another 86 million Americans (27%) had pre-diabetes, and many of these people will develop full-blown diabetes. Hear directly from David: “After several years of pre-diabetes, I was diagnosed with adult-onset Type 1 diabetes in 2009 after experiencing many symptoms for several months. I was told that it was brought on primarily as an auto-immune response to increased work-related stress. My body’s immune system literally treated the beta cells that manufacture insulin as an invader and killed most of them. We treated the diabetes with a healthier diet, increased exercise, and oral medications. Soon I also had to take insulin injections as my body’s insulin production sagged. Despite my best attempts to manage the disease, I would experience periodic low blood-sugar episodes (usually overnight) that would leave me wiped out the next day. Those low blood-sugar episodes were very unpredictable – similar daily routines could elicit very different results. I had to manage my stress level and pace myself throughout the week because eventually my body would shut down at the worst times if I ignored it. Plus, my body’s tolerance for skipping meals and logging late hours was diminished. Fortunately, my employer was understanding and accommodated my situation in several ways:

  • They permitted me to conserve energy by working from home whenever necessary.

  • They let me conduct most meetings from home via conference calls with screen-sharing.

  • They let me communicate primarily via phone calls, emails, instant messages, and screen-sharing.

  • They let me set my own work schedule, time-shifting as necessary.

Of course, I had to show management and my team that with these accommodations they could trust me to continue to manage my projects successfully and produce results on-schedule. Keys to my successful management of this persistent disease include:

  • Lifestyle changes: healthy diet, regular exercise especially aerobic like walking, active stress management, regular mealtimes & adequate sleep to stay as healthy and reliable as possible.

  • Increased vigilance: frequent testing, identify and avoid “trigger foods” that would cause my blood sugar to soar, take meds and insulin at prescribed intervals, regular appointments with my specialist.

  • Effective organization: plan work schedule to accommodate personal needs, minimize unexpected incidents and still meet deadlines.

  • Effective communications with my manager and co-workers: keeping their focus on the progress of my projects, reinforcing their confidence in me, even educating them on diabetes.

These diabetes management strategies helped me to continue to excel at my job, completing several major projects every year while managing the disease. I retired last summer and will continue to employ these strategies to enable me to attack my “bucket list” with the same vigor that worked during my career.” To learn more about managing diabetes:

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