It is often challenging to be a caregiver to someone with diabetes. You are concerned about the person’s well-being and must be a careful observer to ensure the person stays healthy. Find out how to be an effective caregiver and still manage to take care of yourself.
- The first step to taking care of someone with diabetes is to learn more about the disease. Go to doctor appointments and attend diabetes classes with your loved one. Read books and visit reputable websites offering information about diabetes. The more you know about the disease, the better you can help someone.
- Be supportive. The person should know you care and want to help them. The key is to be proactive without being overwhelming. Encourage the person to ask you for help whenever they need it. Be aware of the schedule for eating as well as taking insulin and/or other medications. Monitor blood glucose levels if they need help otherwise let them be independent. Remind them to report extreme highs and lows to the health care team. Help maintain regular doctor and dental appointments. Keep a journal to ensure the person with diabetes stays on track. Diabetes may be difficult to handle alone.
- Encourage healthy lifestyle changes that can also benefit the entire family. Try to exercise together for a half hour every day. Join the gym together or take a yoga or Zumba class. You can also walk together each day. Make healthy food choices. Keep the house stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish as well as low fat dairy products and whole grains. Avoid buying sugary treats or tuck them away from a person with diabetes to avoid temptation.
- Applaud the efforts of the person who has diabetes. It is a struggle each day to properly manage this disease. When they try and succeed, keep encouraging them with positive reinforcement. Be considerate and supportive during parties and holidays. Have diabetic foods and healthy treats on hand so the person with diabetes does not feel left out.
- Remember to take care of yourself. If you are overtired or resentful, you cannot be a good caretaker. Fit in time for sleeping, eating and recreation. If you find it difficult, enlist the assistance of a loved one or hire a home health aide to help out. Everyone needs time to themselves to be refreshed and ready for the responsibilities of being a caregiver. While you must do your best, keep in mind nobody manages diabetes perfectly.
- Older people with diabetes need special care and treatment. They are more likely to develop complications such as kidney disease, heart disease as well as eye problems, nervous system disease and dental problems. Keep in mind people of any age with diabetes can suffer these complications. Other issues to watch for include depression, hypertension and numbness of the extremities such as hands and feet. Help check the person’s feet each day for cuts, callouses and other irregularities they might not feel. Watch for weight loss and dehydration. Make sure the person does not skip meals. Encourage the person to quit bad habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol frequently. If you have questions, contact a medical professional or work with a specialist such as a diabetes educator, social worker and/or nutritionist.
Being a caregiver to a person with diabetes can be tiring but also very rewarding. The person is depending on you to help them manage a difficult disease. Reach out for help, write down everything in a journal, and remember to take time out for yourself.