Helping Friends and Family Members with Diabetes

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It is not easy to learn that your close family member or friends are being diagnosed with diabetes. It is even harder for those who are diagnosed with it to face the music. Recognizing that diabetes is a disease without a known cure might help you to understand the confusion and hardship your loved ones have to go through.

As a family member or a friend of diabetes patient, you’re playing an important role here. Why? Firstly, in many studies, it is proven that family dynamics play a stronger role than just the presence of family members during group medical visits. Therefore, you have to be proactive instead of merely showing presence as a form ofyour support. In most cases, physicians will assess family relationship patterns to find out the effects on
patients’ health before making recommendations on life-style modification.

On the contrary, if a family relationship appears to be difficult, it might become a stressor and depression a factor to the patient. Not only does the physician haves to educate the patient but the doctor should also spend time with the family members to inform them about the negative communication and life-style pattern that will complicate the patient’s health. This can be time consuming and as a family member or friend, one
should be informed and be ready to put up with all kinds of situations.

In most of the cases, after learning about the truth of our diagnosed family member or friend, it is normal for us to be sympathetic. However, do not be sympathetic for too long as this can be used as a feeling or an excuse for you to let them be and do whatever they love since life is short. As you read on, you will find out there are many things that you can actually do to help them instead of just being sympathetic.

Many of us have probably heard of diabetes without knowing what exactly it is. Diabetes is a condition where the sugar (glucose) level is abnormally high in the blood and it is caused by little or insufficient insulin in the body. It is important to understand the types of diabetes our family member or friend is diagnosed with. The first type (Type I), occurs when the body fails to produce any insulin. This is most often found in children. Most of the patients are diagnosed with the second type (Type II) - they do not produce insulin due to the damage of the pancreas or the body is insulin-resistant.

Diabetes is a disease without cure and it has to be taken care of every day with properright diet and medication. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause one to suffer other health problems such as blindness, nerve damage, and kidney failure, just to name a few. When the situation is too stressful, the patient will fall into depression. Some have undergone behavioral changes. If we really want to help them, we need to put ourselves in their shoes to understand why they are or are not taking the advice or medication that doctors and physicians recommend. Empowerment, knowledge, and support are often the key elements when helping the patient.

People with diabetes have to make changes in their lives. In most of the situations, they need courage and support. This is when empowerment from family, friends, and even the doctors comes in handy. Not only do patients have to learn how to monitor and control their blood sugar level, we can serve as reminders and be concerned about their daily diet especially when preparing meals for them. Avoid buying foods that they are not supposed to eat, such as trans fat and sugary food. Go for fresh food, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. Not only will the patients’ health will be taken care of, you will benefit from the healthy diet. Next, implement healthy life-style changes. Regular exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and dancing are good for both of you. However, encourage the patients to speak to the doctor to find out the right kinds of exercise for their age, ability, and current health.

Helping patients with diabetes is not an easy task, especially when they are giving up on themselves. However, we have to realizse that everyone has the potential and capacity for making healthy behavior changes. Thus, instead of forcing them to accept the truth, you may focus on helping them to explore their own concerns, ideas and strategies to overcome the changes they are going to face in their lives. As a support, you may also consider to creatinge a rapport by frequently communicating with patients to assess how they’re handling their lifestyle changes, diet, and the stress that comes with the diabetes diagnosis.

The steps of changes in patients start with pre-contemplation when they are not seriously considering any change or contemplation when they are thinking about change. Even though the situation may differ, the encouragement and support from family members and friends must be consistent. When they are ready to make changes, you have to be ready to prepare yourself to accept the change. From an advisor or counselor, your role now
is more like a motivator who should constantly provide inspiration and drive to the patients. During the process of making the change, you have to be on the go. You can take your action through daily diet and exercise. Get them to participate in a healthy life style with you. The last step will be the most difficult and challenging- to sustain and maintain. Once the healthy lifestyle is implemented, here comes the maintenance work. It is important to sustain behavior change and ensure it becomes a lifestyle.

It takes time to learn to accept and live comfortably with diabetes. As a family member or friend of a patient with diabetes, you are the reminder, advisor, motivator, action-taker and maintainer! Your constant support and attention might be the best cure of all! Let them know they are not alone.

About the Author:

John Jacobsen has been writing articles about diabetes and health care for over 10 years. He believes strongly that patients should arm themselves with information and be their own best advocate in their care. He finds to be a valuable tool for diabetes patients, family, and friends.
Copyright (c) 2008 John Jacobsen

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