Helping family member’s with diabetes

Oct 28, 2014
Tagged with: Helping family member's with diabetes

Diabetes is an increasingly common illness and one that impacts not only on the individual with the condition, but also on their family. People with a family member who has diabetes find themselves faced with a series of challenges, not only about how they cope with the situation from a personal point of view but, more importantly, how they help their loved one cope with it, physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Fortunately, help is available and all it takes is a bit of research and some careful consideration of all the options and possibilities to ensure this supportive role is carried out in the most helpful way.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in an individual’s blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. This occurs when the pancreas produces insufficient amounts of insulin, and in some instances none at all, to help glucose entering the body’s cells. Sometimes the insulin that is produced does not work properly and this is known as insulin resistance.

Diabetes therefore develops when glucose is unable to enter the body’s cells to be used as fuel. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 occurs when there is no insulin available to unlock the cells and Type 2 occurs when there is not enough insulin; or the insulin is there but not working properly.

People with diabetes may experience increased thirst, fatigue, unexplained weight loss and an increased need to pass urine, especially at night. Symptoms can be mitigated with medication and carefully managed lifestyle choices.


Even with the most careful preparations having been made, it is possible for someone with diabetes to have a bad turn and, when this happens, it is critical for family members to know what to do, as the impacts of such an incident can be extremely harmful.


  • Step 1 – Recognize the symptoms. Low blood sugar manifests itself as something called hypoglycemia, which can be dangerous if not treated quickly. Symptoms may include fitting, vomiting and falling unconscious.


  • Step 2 – Stay calm. This is critical as maintaining a level head is essential to assessing the situation and providing the best possible support.


  • Step 3 – Get medical help. As soon as the individual is made as safe as possible, an ambulance should be called. If there is someone else present, one should call the ambulance while the other stays with the patient. In many cases, medical assistance can be provided at home and diabetics will often have medication that can help to lower blood sugar levels either with them or nearby.


  • Step 4 – Manage the situation. Until help arrives, the patient should be kept as comfortable and safe as possible. Family members should do everything they can to maintain a calm and reassuring environment.


Day-to-day assistance

It is not only with emergencies that family members can help people with diabetes. In fact, the day-to-day hassle that comes from living with such a condition can be an enormous drain on spirit and energy and this is where loved ones can have the biggest influence and are able to make the most positive difference as a result.

First of all, anyone wishing to make a helpful contribution should ensure they familiarize themselves with the various rules that people with diabetes must adhere to (see below) and then think carefully about what they can do to make keeping to these rules less of a chore. With a bit of imagination, it is possible to make the rules a simple part of family life that eventually people do not even give a second thought to. In fact, things can even be taken one step further and by applying some creativity, certain aspects can even be made into an enjoyable game. This sort of approach is particularly helpful with children.

Making safe food charts, designing family menus so people do not feel left out, organizing family activities around exercise, and turning medication schedules into something lively and colorful are just a few ways of making living with diabetes every day a little bit more bearable.


Prevention – knowing and understanding the rules


People with diabetes and their families often talk about the rules for day-to-day living that are essential to understand and adhere to.


  1. Monitor, monitor, monitor. Regularly sourced information that is carefully interpreted is critical to keeping diabetes under control. Blood glucose levels must be checked at the correct intervals, and various medical tests carried out at the right times. Eye tests and foot examinations for example can be key indicators and providers of warning signs.


  1. A healthy lifestyle. A carefully considered and well-designed diet combined with regular exercise and a positive lifestyle attitude will help to maintain a healthy heart and mitigate the impact of diabetes. Likewise, taking the right medication at the right times will strengthen this approach even further.


  1. Knowledge is power. New things are being discovered every day and it is important for people with diabetes and their families to keep on top of such developments. Research can also help in day-to-day activity as well. For example, knowing the menu before going out to a restaurant or understanding how to carry out simple tests without the assistance of a medical professional.


Love and understanding

Knowing what to do from a practical point of view is of course essential and, in many cases, will be lifesaving. That said it can be equally important, some would say even more important, to provide the sort of support that cannot be seen.

Making the effort to fully understand the family member’s condition and what it means to them, as well as offering support from an emotional point of view, can be enormously helpful. It will help the individual with diabetes to understand that they are not alone and have someone they can turn to, not only for physical help, but also for warmth and understanding.


Author: Luke Sprocket

  • bobl07

    Having a family history these tips are just perfect.