October 30, 2015

Helping a Spouse or Loved One with Diabetes

This is one topic where specifics are difficult and helping some spouses can be very difficult. Every good intention can result in worse behavior by the spouse with diabetes. Not a good situation to have happen.

I am a little disappointed that the Mayo Clinic is rerunning a blog post from April 24, 2013. This summer seems to be the summer for reruns. The topic of helping a spouse is still a great topic. In addition, they use information from William Polonsky, Ph.D., which makes this even more valuable.

How do you help someone who won't help himself or herself, especially when he or she is an adult? Let's face it, diabetes isn't an easy disease to have or manage. It can be frustrating and takes work. On top of that, everyone seems to have an opinion about diabetes, whether it's valid or not.

When a family member or friend of someone has diabetes, you may see your loved one struggle with diabetes management. And, some people with diabetes tend to minimize or ignore their diabetes. Burnout can occur from years of managing the condition. Ignoring something bad that is happening to you makes perfect sense only if there is really nothing you can do about it. That is why watching a family member or partner do little or nothing to keep his or her diabetes under control can be so heartbreaking.

Still, if you're a family member, friend or partner of someone with diabetes, it's important to remember whose diabetes it is and respect boundaries. Crossing these boundaries can often create additional problems. Nagging, being a watchdog, extracting promises, and manipulating someone to do what you want them to do doesn't work in most cases.

So what should you do? Dr. Polonsky offers the following advice:
  • Don't assume you know what your loved one with diabetes is thinking.
  • Do try and understand how your loved one's actions make sense from their perspective.
  • Don't offer advice unless you're asked.
  • Do offer to help if the individual is receptive.
  • Remind your loved one that he or she is loved on a regular basis.
  • Take care of yourself and seek education about diabetes.”

In addition, it may be useful to:
  • Ask your partner, friend or family member to join you for a walk, bike ride or other activity (but accept "no" if that's the response).
  • Offer healthy food options, but don't make demands. Ultimately, it's the other person's choice.
  • Try not to nag.
  • Don't let another person's diabetes take control of your life.
  • Seek counseling if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Try motivating yourself to make lifestyle changes if needed.
  • Learn to set boundaries.”

This is important:
  • Take care of yourself and find your own support system.
  • Respect your loved one's wishes and show them you care.
  • Hopefully your loved one will discover that he or she isn't powerless and can do something to cope with and manage his or her diabetes.

Also, please read my blogs on this topic for other ideas. The first is about supporting a loved one with diabetes and please follow the links included in that blog. The second is about helping a spouse with diabetes.

The last suggestion is to do an intervention assisted by the doctor and other people the doctor might suggest. I have seen successful interventions, but unless everyone involved knows what to do, they can also create greater barriers for the couple.

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