My father, Pentaiah Dichpally, has lived with type 2 diabetes for more than 20 years. When he was first diagnosed, I was still at university, and it was a very worrying time. My job as caregiver involved going to doctor visits with him and learning how to give medicines from time to time.
As he travels quite frequently, I prompt my father to take his medicines and test blood sugar during his trips and encourage him to eat healthily. For many years, my father had to take insulin and it was difficult in those days to inject, as there were no disposable syringes available. For the last three years, my father has been on a Glipizide and Metformin oral prescription, which has made his life much easier.
My father has always worked for social services and done a lot of work in the community on health. From an early age I helped him to prepare for visits to the immunization centres that he maintained, where polio drops and measles injections were made available. As a senior member of Lions Clubs International, he has also worked on diabetes care and education. We now work together to organise and run diabetes screening camps and bring awareness, focusing on rural areas. I work full time as an HR and IT Manager, sometimes working 13 hour days, but any spare time I have I spend organising diabetes camps or advocating to raise awareness about diabetes on social media.
In India, people used to think about diabetes in a different way – people didn't want to disclose that they had diabetes, or even get tested, because they thought they were going to die. I am very motivated to raise awareness and change attitudes because of my dad, but also because I have seen relatives with diabetes have amputations. There is a lack of awareness in communities. In India, we have to pay for health care and medicines. Recently medicines have become very costly, but we are lucky that we can afford them, so we think about people who cannot. We give subsidised prices and sometimes free injections for those communities through the diabetes camps. I often donate diabetes testing strips personally and many of our friends and colleagues are most generous – they buy medicines for the poor when they are needed. Other people are starting to feel motivated by our camps and they are asking how to conduct the camps in their areas.
Being a carer for my father has also involved being a motivating force and moral support. He faces other health challenges, having developed spondylitis, a spinal condition, and prostate problems. It is important that he stays focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and has regular check-ups. With caregiver support, people with diabetes can better cope with their condition because they have someone to share the burden of the demands of their condition. But he too guides and motivates me to bring awareness on diabetes in our communities. We talk daily about our activities and motivate each other to make healthy lifestyle choices. We are not just like father and son. He is like a friend to me.