Helping Your Adult Family Member with Diabetes Management
Meal planning, daily physical activity and blood sugar monitoring, medications. The day-in and day-out requirements of diabetes management can overwhelm those with this chronic disease.
"That's where loving family members can help," says Eve Gehling, R.D., a certified diabetes educator and author of "The Family and Friends Guide to Diabetes." "The best way to help someone with diabetes is to first learn what diabetes is and how it's treated."
Doing so will help you support their efforts to manage their blood-glucose levels, giving TLC when they're ill and preparing healthful meals they'll enjoy.
Steps to take
Offer to go to doctor appointments together or attend a diabetes education program. "Check with your local health care providers or the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association to find out what diabetes conferences or workshops might be in town," says Gehling. "Offer to attend with them, or provide a ride or baby-sitting so your loved one can attend."
Be active together. Go walking, go dancing or rake the lawn together. Not only does being physically active help diabetes management, it also reduces stress and increases energy levels.
Help with food shopping and meal planning, especially if your family member should lose weight. The diabetes diet is one of the healthiest, promoting heart health and weight control. The entire family can benefit from following it. If you don't want to follow the entire diet, try to avoid foods high in sugar and fats, opt for whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Be aware of how you think about and use food. "Many people are brought up to express their love for others through food," says Gehling. "Try to show your affection in ways other than baking or buying sweets."
Encourage your loved one to use a meter to check blood glucose levels. Blood sugar monitoring often is the most stressful aspect of diabetic management.
"Every blood glucose test gives useful information," says Gehling. "It provides the person with a better understanding of the fluctuations that can be caused by hormones, illness, exercise, stress or diet."
Frequent blood testing also helps people with diabetes learn how to fine-tune their diabetes control.
Gehling suggests family members not focus solely on the numbers; instead, she says they should congratulate their loved ones for checking their glucose levels regularly and encourage them to continue doing so.
Family members should learn the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. They should learn how to help the loved one manage diabetes if he or she contracts the flu or other illness.
Gehling also recommends family members provide support by giving positive reinforcement rather than pointing out negatives or nagging.
"The amount of support available from family and friends is an important predictor of successful diabetic management," she says. "The type of support needed will differ from person to person, so rather than assuming what's best for your loved one, simply ask how you can help. And after you ask, the most important thing to do is listen to the answer."