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Helping a Loved One Cope With Diabetes

How can I help a loved one with diabetes if I live out of town?

Long-distance care giving is not easy. But you might consider getting a home health nurse to come to your loved one's home periodically to check on him or her.

The home health nurse is a registered nurse. The nurse will come to a person's home to provide health care, if requested by a physician, social worker, or hospital discharge team.

The nurse can help someone with a chronic disease by doing such things as:

  • Assessing vital signs
  • Taking blood pressure
  • Monitoring blood sugar levels
  • Giving injections
  • Helping with catheters or wound dressings

You'll need to find out if these home health services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or your loved one's supplemental insurance. Medicare covers some home health services and personal care for many health problems. Every situation and diagnosis is different, so you'll need to let a medical professional guide you.

Is there a professional who can help me learn more about a diabetes diet?

Your loved one's doctor or home health nurse may request a consultation with a nutritionist. The nutritionist can help you in providing the proper diabetes diet for your loved one's special needs. Make sure the nutritionist is a licensed dietitian. Ask for credentials.

The proper diet for diabetes can make a big difference in your loved one's short-term and long-term health. Diabetes is strongly affected by food and a balance of carbs and protein. Without the proper balance of foods, the person's health can decline.

Once you've met with the nutritionist, aim to follow the sample diet plan you receive. If you are caregiving long distance, you can write daily menus for the loved one with diabetes. Or you can have an organization deliver meals to the person. Doing either of these things may help keep your loved one well.

How can I help a loved one with diabetes remember to take medication?

Avoiding medications is a serious concern. Diabetes drugs are crucial for controlling the illness and allowing normal activity. If you find that your loved one's medications are not being taken properly, then it's important to sit together and discuss the importance of the medicine.

The loved one with diabetes may simply be forgetful about checking blood sugar levels and taking the prescribed diabetes medications. If so, here are a few steps you can take to help:

  • Consider hiring a certified nurse's aide to stop by and administer medication daily if you must work full time or if you live out of town 
  • Make sure the person is able to give him or herself the medication. If the person has trouble gripping, make sure the caps on bottles are easy to open. Can your loved one with diabetes easily give himself/herself necessary injections of insulin? Are all the diabetes supplies kept in one drawer for convenience? 
  • If your loved one takes pills, capsules, or tablets, purchase a pill calendar. This is a plastic container that has days of the week listed and is divided into parts of the day. It is available at most larger pharmacies. Fill the pill calendar either once a week or once a month, depending on the need. Then, check it periodically to make sure your loved one is taking all medications as scheduled. 
  • If your loved one with diabetes has trouble reading the prescription due to poor vision, make sure he or she sees an ophthalmologist.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or 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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