Diabetes: Helping a Family Member Who Has Diabetes
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It isn’t easy for people to hear that they have diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that cannot be cured. It has to be taken care of every day. People who have diabetes must make some important changes in their lives. To stay healthy, they have to learn how to monitor and control their blood sugar levels. People who don’t control their blood sugar levels can develop serious health problems, such as blindness, nerve damage and kidney failure. This handout will tell you about ways to help your loved one who has diabetes.
How can I help my relative who has diabetes?
First, learn all you can about diabetes. The more you know, the more you can help. Encourage your relative to learn about diabetes, also.
Second, be sympathetic. It can be scary at first for people to find out they have diabetes. Your relative may be frustrated with the changes they have to make. Tell your relative that you understand how they feel. But don’t let your relative use these feelings as an excuse for not taking care of their diabetes.
Path to improved health
In addition to being emotionally supportive, you can also help your relative to make healthy changes. This will help your relative manage their diabetes.
If you eat meals together, eat the same foods your relative eats. Avoid buying foods they aren’t supposed to eat. Healthy eating rules are the same for everyone, including people who have diabetes. Eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugar. Choose a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish.
Encourage exercise. You might even want to exercise together. Walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming and dancing are all good activities that will help both of you get enough exercise. Your relative should contact their healthcare provider to find out what kind of exercise to try.
What else can I do?
Learn how to recognize signs of problems. Learn the symptoms of a high blood sugar level (called hyperglycemia) and a low blood sugar level (called hypoglycemia). Understand that when your relative is very cranky or has a bad temper, their blood sugar level may be too high or too low. Rather than arguing, encourage your relative to check the blood sugar level and take steps to correct the problem.
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
This often happens when the person who has diabetes has eaten too much, is sick, has too little insulin in their body or is under a lot of stress. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include the following:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme thirst
- Blurry vision
- Feeling very tired
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
This often happens when the person who has diabetes has not eaten very much, has too much insulin in their body or has exercised beyond their limits. Signs of hypoglycemia include the following:
- Feeling very tired
- Frequent yawning
- Being unable to speak or think clearly
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Suddenly feeling like you’re going to pass out
- Becoming very pale
- Loss of consciousness
Things to consider
Learning how to live with diabetes takes time. Your relative will have good days and bad days. Times of stress may be the hardest. When people who have diabetes are under stress, they may have more trouble controlling their blood sugar level. When this happens, try to help the person keep things in perspective and get back on track. Provide reminders to eat healthy and to exercise. If the person is feeling frustrated and angry, encourage them to be patient and stick with it.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Nova Scotia and PEI Toll Free: 1-800-326-7712
PEI Government Website
NS Diabetes Care Program Website
Public Health Agency of Canada website at: