November 7, 2012

Helping a Spouse That Has Diabetes

If you have been reading David Mendosa's blog, Suppose Your Husband Has Diabetes” and found your way to my blog, thank you. David has much more experience with this than I have by about 17 years. He has been writing about diabetes that much longer. I still enjoy learning from him, but I was surprised in our discussion that he has not some successes. He may have had some success and not realize this because the wives asking for help did not continue the discussion.

I don't think either of us has a corner on this discussion and I do think I have been extremely fortunately to have had some success. Naturally, we can view situations differently and this is to be expected. He views most things in a positive light, whereas I can go off on a tangent and totally make a mess of things. This has taught me to read emails seeking help with a very jaundiced eye and I admit I often try to read between the lines. Most are looking for help, but what kind of help needs to be determined. Most of mine have been wives looking for help, but not exclusively.

As a result, my first reply is seeking information on which to base future replies. Some spouses do know the stage their spouse is at, but most often, they do not. Until Gretchen Becker wrote her blog on July 20, 2012 and I wrote mine on July 4, 2012, I would summarize the stages from Gretchen's book The First Year - Type 2 Diabetes, New York, Marlow & Company, 312 pages. I have both the first and second edition, and I highly recommend reading it.

It is the first stage – shock, anger? Is it the second stage – most often denial? Is it depression? I seldom ask about whether the spouse has accepted the diagnosis because if this were the case – most often the call for help would not have been needed. I also ask the age – the younger, the more likely a possible mis-diagnosis and I want them to be sure. Sometimes this leads to what tests were done and further discussion. One time this did pay off and the spouse did have LADA, not type 2 diabetes.

How I proceed from here depends on what I can read between the lines. Then I wait for a response. In most cases, I do receive a reply that they are even more confused and I know that the task is even more difficult.

Some do reply denial and I have had a few say depression – from minor to serious. I immediately reply to anyone thinking serious and advise them to call the doctor and get the doctor to see them as soon as possible and see if it is indeed depression. One was and after treatment – the spouse was back to normal self and took responsibility for his diabetes. Others were in a combination denial and minor depression and were able to recover after I explained that diabetes was “not their fault.” I do explain a little about genetics playing a part and whether they may have triggered it early by their eating habits, they would have likely developed diabetes later.

The spouses that are looking for true help will do what is necessary. I do make the suggestion that the wife encourage and challenge her husband to be the husband she knows he is and take charge of his diabetes. I try to get them to be positive and tell their husband that they can live a long and happy life in spite of diabetes and encourage him to come out if his shell and join her. Those spouses who know how to apply this are the most successful and resulted in two of the husbands actually replying to me and asking questions. One other wife did tell me that this worked and her husband was taking charge of his diabetes. She said he was reading about it, but she felt it could be some time before he would talk to others about his diabetes. All of them put the ownership clearly on the husband and encourage him by saying she knew he was capable, and that she was there for support and as a resource if needed.

I have used this on occasion, but don't like to. One husband was asking for help and could not get his wife to take ownership of her diabetes and I think he really tried from what he was telling me. I suggested that he tell her he was making sure that her life insurance was paid. He went further and added that because they could afford additional insurance, he was meeting with the agent to get additional insurance under the guaranteed clause in the policy. In this case, it worked because she was finally convinced he was not going to manage her diabetes. This can backfire badly, and is the reason I don't recommend using this.

In all situations, it is important to have the spouse take ownership of their diabetes and the other spouse to give them positive encouragement and do this patiently. Like David said, “nagging is not productive.” David covered the other points and I won't duplicate his work. If either of us has given you ideas – great – make use of them.

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