Are you helping a loved one cope with diabetes? Diabetes affects an estimated 26 million Americans. It touches the lives of millions more family members and friends. Supporting a loved one with diabetes can be challenging for both the caregiver and the person receiving the care.
It's important to keep in mind that living with any chronic illness, such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes, can be overwhelming. As a caregiver for a loved one with diabetes, you must understand all about diabetes. That means you need to understand:
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our July/August 2012 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, about the link between diabetes and poor sleep.
Q: I have diabetes, and I'm not sleeping well. Are the two related, and what can I do?
A: Yes, people with diabetes often have reduced sleep quality and quantity. Sleep apnea, medications, lack of exercise, and abnormal glucose and hormone...
The necessary dietary and lifestyle measures needed to self-manage it
You also need to know the warning signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels are too low. Hyperglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels get too high. You also need to know what steps to take for both. When you do, you can help keep the patient safe from diabetes complications.
As a diabetes caregiver, you must be prepared to deal with emotional situations that arise. For instance, the person with diabetes may experience fears, anxiety, or depression. Equally important, you must watch yourself. You, too, can become overwhelmed with caregiver stress. That can put your own physical and mental health at risk. If prolonged, your personal feelings of anxiety, stress, and isolation may become a burden in your own life.
What are some ways to help a loved one with diabetes?
It is easy for someone with a chronic disease such as diabetes to suffer without letting anyone know. Even for the caregiver, it can be difficult to see warning signs. The person may mask feelings or symptoms until a diabetic emergency or complications arise.
Communication is the key to successfully helping someone with diabetes. To get ready for care giving, sit and talk with your loved one about any concerns you may have about his or her diabetes. Openly talk about ways you can help the loved one to:
Consistently check blood sugar
Take the necessary medications
Eat a balanced diet
See the various members of the health care team for checkups
If it's difficult to talk with your loved one about diabetes care, see if you can go to the next doctor's appointment with him or her. Then let the doctor lead the discussion of how you might be a help.
Some of the things you might do to help a loved one with diabetes include:
Remind the person to check blood sugar levels at regularly scheduled times.
Help the person schedule the different doctor's appointments, and make sure there is transportation to and from the appointments.
Offer to document signs and symptoms or other concerns for your loved one, and agree to discuss these concerns with the doctor.
Prepare a plan together in case of a diabetic emergency or complications.
Comfort your loved one and provide love and support when there are spikes or dips in blood sugar levels. Helping someone get control over blood sugar can be lifesaving.
Offer to help the person with diabetes make the right food choices.
Prepare food for the person with diabetes.
Go with your loved one to a diabetes support group.
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Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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