Diabetes: A Caregiver's Checklist for Daily Care

Helping someone take care of her diabetes doesn't just make her feel better. It helps her avoid common diet, foot, and mouth problems. Use this checklist for top-notch daily care.

Daily Tasks for People with Diabetes

Most people with diabetes already have their own daily routines. Some don’t need any help at all -- some need reminders and prompts. But if you’re a new caregiver or family member, these are good things for you to know.

  • She is in charge of keeping her blood sugar levels healthy. She might already be keeping a daily record of her blood glucose readings, medicine schedule, exercise, meals, and how she feels. She might be working with her doctor to look for patterns from month to month and let her doctor know about them.
  • When she wants to exercise, note that she should wait an hour or so after eating, when blood sugar is likely higher. It’s always a good idea to pack glucose tablets or a carbohydrate snack, plenty of water, and a diabetes ID tag or card when she exercises away from home. She should also check her blood glucose before, during, and after exercise.
  • Stress can affect her blood sugar. Some daily activities that might help her ease stress: walking, deep breathing exercises, gardening, meditation, listening to music, or working on a hobby.

If she has problems being able to do any of these things herself -- from monitoring blood sugar to taking medications -- you might be able to help.

Grooming

  • People with diabetes are more likely to have problems in their mouths -- like gum disease, fungus, and dry mouth. That's why mouth care is so important. They should brush with a soft-bristled brush after every meal, and floss at least once a day.
  • Ingrown toenails can lead to infection and other problems. Caregivers or family members can help check toenails once a week for swelling or signs of infection. Toenails should be trimmed with a nail clipper straight across and then smoothed with an emery board. Don't round off nail corners.

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Bathing

  • Mild soap and warm (not hot) baths or showers are best to prevent dry skin. Skip foot soaking, which can dry skin. Dry between toes. She should use a doctor-approved moisturizer -- including on her feet, except between toes.
  • A small thing like a callus or cut on the foot can lead to serious problems for anyone with diabetes. And if she has nerve damage from diabetes, she may not even feel a cut or sore. After a bath, she should do a daily skin check, especially of her feet. Give her a hand-held mirror, or look in the places she can't see. Look for red spots, blisters, and sores.
  • Gently smooth corns and calluses with a pumice stone or emery board, moving it in one direction only. Wash minor cuts with soap and water. Check each day to make sure they are healing.

Dressing

  • Most people with diabetes know to take care of their feet. As a rule, They should not wear sandals or go barefoot -- even when just walking around the house.
  • A better bet: soft leather, lace-up shoes with cushioned soles for good support. Shoes and slippers should have closed toes. She should always wear socks that aren't too tight, so they don't hurt circulation.
  • If shoes are new, she should wear them for 1 or 2 hours, and then check for cuts or blisters. Add a couple of hours and check for problems each day until they feel comfortable. If she gets a blister, don't pop it. Wash it with soap and water; then put on antibiotic cream. If it doesn't heal in a few days, call her doctor.

Eating

  • It’s important to keep her blood sugar levels as stable as possible. It’s better if she eats meals at the same time every day, with healthy snacks in between -- or several smaller meals throughout the day. It’s not a good idea for her to skip food, because her blood glucose can drop.
  • She should be following the meal plan her health care team helps create. These usually include portions of carbohydrates at every meal and snack or throughout the day.
  • Drinking lots of fluids -- like water and caffeine-free, sugar-free drinks -- to keep her body and skin hydrated is a good thing.

If you are the one coordinating her meal and medicine schedules, ask her diabetes health team for advice.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on July 07, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Family Physician: "Foot Care for People with Diabetes."

California Pacific Medical Center: "Dietary Guidelines for Diabetes."

Cleveland Clinic: "Oral Health Problems and Diabetes," "Foot and Skin Related Complications of Diabetes."

Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: "Exercise prescription for diabetes."

Joslin Diabetes Center: "4 Tips for Foot Care When You Have Diabetes," "Good Skin Care and Diabetes," "Diabetes Foot Care: Picking the Right Shoes."

National Diabetes Education Program: "4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders: "Taking Care of Your Diabetes Every Day."

Wahowiak, L. Diabetes Forecast, September 2012.

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