While the bulk of Western Australians are happily embracing their old way of life, fears of COVID-19 are still front of mind for people with diabetes with more than half of them still isolating at home, avoiding going out in public and a sixth continue to put off visiting their GP for important health care.
Western Australians living with diabetes remain cautious about returning to a ‘normal’ way of life since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in WA, a Diabetes WA survey has found.
Despite recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicating a decline in feelings of stress and nervousness among Australians as COVID-19 restrictions began to ease, the findings from Diabetes WA’s online survey paints a different picture for people living with diabetes.
The survey was completed by more than 1330 people from the WA diabetes community of over 130,000. Results show that almost three quarters of people living with diabetes in WA are still concerned about contracting the virus, while close to 80 per cent agreed that their concerns would increase if Australia opens its international borders before a vaccine becomes available.
The online survey was conducted State-wide in June – before other regions of Australia experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases, so concerns are now likely even more pronounced.
During the COVID-19 restrictions, vulnerable people, including some of those with chronic conditions such as diabetes were advised by the government to take extra precautions. This is because some people, depending on their individual circumstances, are at a higher risk of serious illness and complications should they contract COVID-19.
As a result, the survey shows that people with diabetes have changed the way they go about their daily lives, with:
• One in four (26 per cent) saying they don’t think life will return to normal.
• More than half (56 per cent) are continuing to take precautions by isolating at home to some degree.
• 27 per cent more likely to work from home.
• 67 per cent less likely to use public transport.
• More than half (51 per cent) less likely to visit shops, cafes or gyms.
On a social level one in three respondents said they are less likely to catchup with friends and family, while a staggering 72 per cent said they are less likely to attend major sporting events or concerts.
More worrying is a drop in people intending to visit their GPs – which for people with diabetes is important for accessing support to help manage their condition. The Diabetes WA survey shows that over a sixth of people (17 per cent) with diabetes are now less likely to visit their GP or other health clinics.
However, the survey shows that technology is now playing a pivotal role, with telehealth providing a safe, secure and convenient way for people to stay connected with their healthcare team. Calls to Diabetes WA’s Helpline and Telehealth Service doubled during March, prompting the temporary extension of the opening hours to keep up with increased demand.
Even as restrictions are lifted in WA, telehealth still appears to be an appealing option for people living with diabetes. More than a third of respondents (34 per cent) are more likely to take up telehealth appointments than before, which supports an ABS findings that shows close to half of Australians (47 per cent) would use a telehealth service in future due to the convenience and saving on time and travel.
Close to a third of respondents also reported that they are more likely to access digital health programs, while close to a quarter say they are more likely to use home delivery for health products.
Deb Schofield, General Manager Health Services at Diabetes WA, thinks these changes may be here to stay, “Diabetes WA already knew that the community was changing how they wanted to access their healthcare. During the COVID-19 restrictions and as people with diabetes isolated at home, we were able to respond quickly and provide support through convenient, accessible digital healthcare options.”
“We quickly launched the free online type 2 diabetes self-management program, MyDESMOND,along with our webinar series, and extended availability of the free Helpline and Telehealth Service to help anyone wanting support with their diabetes management. Along with our home delivery of diabetes supplies through our online shop, support was available to anyone who wanted it, wherever they live.
“Now that the COVID-19 risk is reduced in WA, we are encouraging everyone to get back to see their GP and healthcare teams. Not all checkups and tests can be provided through telehealth and online programs, so face to face care is important and sometimes preferred. But the strong message from the community is that these advances provide more options and are complementary to their overall care and that’s why we are already working hard on what’s next.”
If you are living with diabetes and require support, access to services from home, or the latest COVID-19 advice, visit diabeteswa.com.au or phone 1300 001 880.