November 2, 2016

Supporting a Loved One with Diabetes

Diabetes is a self-managed disease. Whether you have a supportive family or even supportive friends, you still have to manage diabetes to the best of your ability. They cannot and should not manage your diabetes, unless you are incapacitated or have a form of dementia. Even many adults with type 2 diabetes expect their doctor to manage their diabetes.

When you have diabetes, you have it 24/7 with no vacations. It is not an easy task and it takes a real task manager to stay on top of diabetes. Supporting someone you love is natural, but it can be difficult if he/she shuts you out or won't take charge of his/her diabetes. Finding the right ways to help is a key. You must work with them, but at the same time help them to accept their diabetes and manage it.

Because the chances are you are not knowledgeable about the disease, you will need to learn starting with the basics and carefully manage the terminology. Unless it is your child that has diabetes, you will still want to go to the doctor appointments, if the spouse will allow this. You should be able to ask questions during the doctor visit and because diabetes is different for everyone, knowing about their diabetes will make helping them easier.

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. William 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.”

Help Manage Medications

People with diabetes need to take their medicines as prescribed. Sometimes, they may need a little help with that.

Make sure the person is able to give himself or herself the medication. Can he open the cap on the pill bottle or give himself insulin? Does she keep all her diabetes supplies in a convenient place?

If your loved one takes pills, capsules, or tablets, use a pill calendar. This plastic container has days of the week listed and is divided into parts of the day. You can get one at most larger pharmacies. Fill the pill calendar once a week or once a month, as needed. Check it regularly to see if they missed any doses.

It could be that your friend or relative doesn’t see well, and can’t read the prescription bottle. Make an appointment with an eye doctor (an ophthalmologist) for a vision checkup.

Get Support

Take care of yourself, too. If caregiving starts to become stressful, it helps to talk with someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, relative, or counselor. You may also want to join a support group.

To find one, ask your loved one’s doctor, or check with a local hospital.

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