As a diabetes caregiver, you are in a position to provide support that may help the person you are caring for manage of their diabetes and reduce their risk for diabetes-related complications. The support you provide may only be verbal or emotional, or you may be helping someone manage their diabetes 24 hours a day.
Whatever level of support you are providing, it is important to first learn as much as you can about diabetes. See our Learning About Diabetes section of this website to get started.
It is also important to communicate with the person you are caring for in order to determine what they need from you as a caregiver. Part of this communication will also involve listening to their complaints, fears, successes, and anything else they might want to talk to you about. Finally, use your position as caregiver to be a model for a healthy lifestyle, such as by making a healthy diet and fitness a part of your life, as this will help the person with diabetes develop similar habits that are important for their health and diabetes management.
Blood sugar testing
The goal for people with diabetes is to maintain recommended blood sugar (glucose) levels. Knowing whether levels are in the target range is determined by daily blood sugar monitoring. If your responsibilities as caregiver include day-to-day care you will likely be involved with this testing, either with the testing procedure or by providing emotional support. It is very important that the blood sugar levels be recorded in a log book or notebook so the person's healthcare team can monitor these recorded levels. Learn more about the goals of blood sugar testing so you will know if your loved one is on target.
Severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can result in very serious conditions such as coma or death. As a caregiver, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms and how to treat low blood sugar events. Learn more about identifying, treating, and preventing low blood sugar.
Talking to the healthcare provider
Depending on your role and involvement as a diabetes caregiver, you may be accompanying the person you are caring for when they visit their healthcare provider. Having a good relationship with the person's healthcare provider is valuable and can be of particular value in times of emergency. Knowing the doctor's approach to treating your loved one's diabetes can make you more informed and more effective as a caregiver.
It is important to be prepared for visits with the healthcare provider. Make sure to take blood sugar log books and a list of any questions you or the patient may have. Having a list of questions is important to help make sure the conversation with the healthcare provider is productive and informative.
Food and nutrition
If you are living with a person with diabetes, an important part of your role will be helping the person manage their diet in order to keep blood sugar levels as close to the normal range as possible. Dietary management for a person with diabetes involves keeping healthy, appropriate foods stocked and providing assistance with meal planning. These healthy foods will contribute to better blood sugar management and reduce the risk for complications.
The good news is, the foods and diet that are good for someone with diabetes are the same foods and diet that someone who doesn't have diabetes should be eating for optimal health. Everyone in the household can benefit from eating a healthier diet, and the person with diabetes won't feel like there are areas of the pantry or refrigerator that are "off-limits" to them.
Care for the caregiver
While you are busy caring for someone with diabetes, you might forget to take care of yourself. It is important to make sure you stay healthy so you can continue to provide the care this person needs.
You may find that friends or a support group can provide you with the support you need when you are feeling down or overwhelmed by your role as caregiver. Practicing good time management can also help keep you from feeling overwhelmed and help you feel more in control of your own life. Finally, it is important that you take time to relax and even take a vacation if you can.
Your role as a caregiver is important as you are helping someone with diabetes maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage their diabetes. Remember, however, that your health is also important. Make sure you take time to care for you.