How To Care For a Family Member With Diabetes
It can be a little intimidating to find out that one of your loved ones has been diagnosed with diabetes. Although over 30 million people are living with the disease, too many of us are still unsure of what it means or what to do once we or someone we know has received a diagnosis. Since November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, we want to share some tips to help guide you on how to take care of those with diabetes, specifically those suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Learn as Much as Possible
The first step to taking care of someone with diabetes is to learn as much about the disease as you can. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body is no longer able to properly process insulin, leading to unstable blood sugar levels. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to a list of other health problems in the future.
Those living with diabetes have to work really hard to keep their blood sugar levels stable to prevent these problems. There are tools that allow them to do this, and it’s important that as their caregiver you understand how each is used. For example, a glucose monitor tests a person’s blood sugar to see if it’s at a healthy level. An insulin pump is a device that attaches to the body and gives doses of insulin to the person when they are in need. It’s important that both you and your loved one know how to use these devices and how they fit into the person’s daily lifestyle. You’ll also want to become familiar with any medication that your loved one may have been prescribed and learn the specifics of their insulin dosages. This way you’ll be able to help them stay on top of their medication schedule.
It’s also incredibly important that you learn the signs of low blood sugar, some of which include paleness, weakness, trembling, hunger, and confusion. If you notice these signs, you must take action quickly to help stabilize their blood sugar levels to help prevent serious side effects, like seizures and loss of consciousness. The key to helping someone live with diabetes is to learn as much about it as you can about the disease and be ready to help if you loved one needs it.
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
It’s critical for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes to watch what they eat. A healthy diet not only helps to regulate blood sugar levels in the body, but it can also postpone or even prevent the need for insulin injections and other medications.
You’ll want to start out by establishing a consistent eating schedule. When someone with diabetes misses a meal, or if they have spaced their meals too far apart, they can experience severe drops in their blood sugar. It’s also important to prevent blood sugar spikes by reducing their intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta.
Healthy eating can also lead to your loved one losing weight, which has been shown to help regulate blood sugar, and prevent some of the complications associated with diabetes. Just a 10 percent reduction in body weight can lead to your body having better control of managing blood sugar. If your loved one has had trouble losing weight in the past, consider signing them up for a proven weight loss program that can be customized to their dietary needs. Even making small life changes can have a huge impact on your loved one’s quality of life.
Support Physical Activity
Exercise and other physical activity can also help stabilize blood sugar and promote weight loss and is very important for those with diabetes. Being active makes your cells more sensitive to insulin, meaning that your blood sugar levels are more stable, and it also prevents future nerve damage and heart disease.
You could encourage your loved one to be more active by offering to do activities with them. Suggest going on a daily walk together or create a goal with them and help them reach it (like walking in a local charity walk!). You could also help them find more opportunities in their schedule to be physically active. Just make sure to always keep water and a snack on hand just in case their blood sugar levels begin to drop. With a little convincing, both you and your loved one can learn how to live a more active lifestyle.
Remind Them To Check Their Feet
Diabetics often suffer from a complication called neuropathy, or the damage of nerves in their feet and legs, which can either result in pain that makes it difficult to do normal activities and/or numbness that makes it difficult to tell when something is wrong.
Those who experience numbness are less likely to feel heat, cold, or pain in their feet. Paired with the fact that diabetes makes cuts and abrasions take longer to heal due to poor circulation, a small cut on the foot can go unnoticed and turn into a bad infection, which can lead to serious health problems.
It’s crucial that those who have numbness are taking caution to keep their feet unharmed by checking regularly for cuts and blisters. You can help prevent injury and health complications by keeping your loved one’s toenails neatly trimmed and making sure they’re always wearing closed-toed shoes that fit them properly. You should also think about getting them a few pairs of compression socks to help get blood flowing to their feet. Use our guide to find the best socks for diabetics, or encourage them to talk to their doctor about it. While it might not be the first thing you think about when you hear diabetes, foot care is extremely important for those who have the disease and their feet need to be looked after properly.
Make Sure They’re Going To The Doctor Regularly
There are lots of medical complications that are associated with diabetes, including but not limited to eye damage, kidney disease, heart failure, nerve damage, oral health issues, and high blood pressure. It’s critical that your loved one stay on top of their health by going to the doctor regularly and discussing any type of problems that they might be noticing.
You can help by periodically asking your loved one how they’re doing, and checking in to see if they notice any changes that might be of concern. You can also help them stay on top of their doctor’s appointments. You’ll also want to remind them to get their annual flu shot and other vaccines recommended by their doctor. This way you’ll be able to prevent sickness before it happens.
Ask How You Can Help
It can be difficult learning to live with diabetes, and it can be hard to completely change your lifestyle in order to manage the disease. While the person who was diagnosed does have to learn to make these changes on their own, don’t be afraid to ask how you can make it easier on them. Don’t yell or fuss at them if they’re not changing as quickly as they should. Instead, let them know they are not alone in this and offer to help them make small lifestyle choices that will help them in the long-run. Even if you’re not their primary caretaker, it would mean the world to your loved one to ask what you can do to make their life easier.