Caring for a Loved One with Diabetes: Be a Partner on Your Loved One’s Journey to Wellness
When a loved one is living with diabetes, the disease doesn’t just impact them. It affects entire families as you plan meals, get active and support your loved one on their journey.
“Families and loved ones that come together to make changes in diet and exercise can really help individuals get control of diabetes,” explains T Newsome, MD, internal medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group. “Diabetes can be managed. There’s no reason it should slow anyone down from living a healthy and full life. Family caregivers can be a big part of that success.”
Dr. Newsome shares more advice for family caregivers who want to support and encourage their loved one living with diabetes.
Knowledge is power
When it comes to any health condition, Dr. Newsome is a firm believer that “knowledge is power.”
“It really puts everyone on the same page when a partner takes the time to learn treatments, goals and even the possible complications of diabetes,” he says.
Here, he explains a few commonly used phrases, tests and complications of diabetes that can help you better understand your loved one’s condition.
Hemoglobin A1C blood test
This test measures the average blood glucose over the past three months. It helps doctors know how well diabetes is being managed and if treatment plans need to be adjusted.
Patients with diabetes typically need to check their blood sugar levels 3-4 times each day and possibly need insulin that often.
“Insulin administration can be very taxing,” admits Dr. Newsome. “It’s helpful when a loved one knows how to check blood sugar levels and give insulin. It’s also very important for a loved one to know the signs of low blood sugar and what to do if they get to a dangerous level.”
Signs of low blood sugar can include:
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Feeling shaky
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Sweating, chills or clamminess
Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) is a common complication of diabetes. It can lead to a loss of feeling in the extremities, like the feet. This, in turn, makes it harder to feel an injury to the foot. When a cut or sore doesn’t heal properly, it can become infected and lead to serious complications like amputation.
Be aware of these practices that help avoid complications:
- Make sure your loved one is taking proper care of their feet.
- Check feet every day for sores, cuts or calluses.
- Wash and dry your feet every day.
- Never go barefoot and always wear shoes that fit properly.
- Cut toenails in a straight line.
Stay on track with doctor’s appointments
Individuals with diabetes benefit from regular appointments with their primary care providers and specialists. A family caregiver can help keep track of these appointments to ensure your loved one stays healthy and strong:
- Primary care provider: Every 3-6 months to evaluate blood sugar levels and treatment plans
- Ophthalmologist: Once a year to check for diabetic retinopathy
- Podiatrist: Once a year, or when recommended by your primary care provider
Finally, Dr. Newsome’s last bit of advice for family caregivers is to make sure their loved one eats regularly.
“Diabetics can really get into trouble with blood sugar levels when they skip a meal,” he says. “Make sure your loved one eats three healthy meals a day.”
Talk to your primary care provider about any questions or concerns you have about diabetes. Find a provider near you.