Understanding the Patient
Diabetes comes with both physical and emotional highs and lows and that they can be challenging to handle at times. If you are taking care of someone with diabetes, either as their parent, loved one, or a member of their support network, it's important to understand both the disease and the challenges it creates. Here's how to get started.
Communication is key. Whether it's a discussion about the food on the table or the blood sugar result on the meter, it's important that you and your loved one be able to communicate freely. Encourage them to share their feelings about their medical results or how they feel about their diabetes. Understanding why they may feel a certain way can lead to better managing their diabetes care.
Educate yourself. When it comes to managing diabetes, there are plenty of numbers and medical terms being bantered about. Bring yourself up to speed with the terminology. Consult our diabetes dictionary to become familiar with the lingo. Read books and visit websites that cater towards diabetes education.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. When your loved one talks about their diabetes, actively listen. Ask questions about their medical tests and what the results mean, if they are willing to share. You can also conduct your own diabetes research online and at the library to help "fill in the gaps."
Find out their preferences. Is your loved one private about their diabetes, or will they talk about it with anyone? How would they prefer that you handle their diabetes? Do they want you to ask about their blood sugar results, or are they more comfortable with managing their numbers themselves? Are they interested in starting an exercise regimen? You can help by working out with them. Food choices are also a big part of living with diabetes. Ask how you can help make meal planning easier. Keep your kitchen stocked with food choices that are diabetes-friendly. There are many facets to managing diabetes – be there every step of the way for them.
However, you don't always have to take their lead. Not every person with diabetes is taking steps to self-manage their condition. Sometimes they are in a "slump" or feeling a little bit of diabetes burnout. If you feel that the safety of your loved one may be compromised, talk to them. Let them know that you are there to support them and to help them maintain good health. Brainstorm with your loved one to find ways you can help make their diabetes management less of a burden.
Diabetes doesn't have to be something they have to manage alone. You can make all the difference in their diabetes life.
Reviewed by Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN 01/14.
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