Written by: Ms Choong Shiauyin, Diabetes Educator at IJN
Diabetes self-care is a critical aspect of disease management for people with diabetes. People with diabetes are at risk for several complications1 , including kidney failure, blindness, amputation, and heart disease. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death among people with diabetes.
From adherence to diabetes treatment regimen, checking blood sugar at home, being physically active, eat healthy food and keeping healthcare appointment, a diabetic patient has many daily responsibilities and often need supports from a dedicated caregiver to accomplish each task. If you’re caring for someone with diabetes, here are some tips to support you and your loved one.
People with diabetes may be told eat a healthier diet. Join your loved one in making a diabetes healthy meal plan and lifestyle changes. Make changes together as a team or household. This can help you to practice healthy meal pattern and let the person that you are caring knows he/she is not alone in managing diabetes2.
Ask your doctor to refer you to dietitian who can work with you on a meal plan that suitable for your loved one and the household. Eating right and healthy will help your loved one keep her or her blood sugar in a good range and able to reduce heart and blood vessel disease. There are plenty of delicious recipe that fulfill the diet requirement for diabetes patient.
An exercise routine can help your loved one lose weight and stabilise blood sugar levels. One of the greatest motivators in starting and sticking to an exercise routine is having an exercise partner – which is where you come in. Exercise option can include walking, cycling, yoga, swimming, as long as pick something that you both like to do. For example, walking 30 minutes daily, help to control weight and blood sugar level3. Helping your loved one can help keep you healthy too.
Encourage the person you caring to check his/her blood sugar levels according to the recommended blood sugar monitoring schedule by doctor or diabetes educators. Each person will follow his/her own specific schedule.
Checking and recording blood sugar levels can help to reveal their sugar patterns changes and can be helpful when discussing with doctor to improve diabetes control3. Regular blood sugar monitoring allow quick response to high blood sugar or low blood sugar.
Diabetes treatment that prescribed by doctor can be oral or injectable therapy. Adhere to medication regimen and schedule is important to ensure the effectiveness of treatment plan3. Learn together with your loved one to administer insulin injections or any injectable therapy. So that, he/she will feel supported by family members2,3.
Diabetes may be harmful to the feet of the person you caring in several ways, and cause complications and symptoms such as following:
1. Nerve damage – feel numbness or burning sensation in the feet
2. Poor blood circulation – complained of pain in leg muscles when walking
3. Foot infections – foot ulcers, blisters, or calluses detected
Consult your doctor if your loved one experiences any of the above symptoms. It is also advisable for diabetic person to get feet checked at least once a year3. Ask your doctors or diabetes educators about this annual foot assessment.
Picture source from www.ijn.com.my
The diabetic people’s feet are susceptible to injury and infection –even a small cut can lead to serious complication3. Ensure your loved one check his/her feet every day to look for any cuts, blisters, redness, swelling or nail problems3. Ask your doctors or diabetes educators for detailed foot care education.
Diabetic people should also get regular eye check-ups and dental examination for early detection of diabetes complications3.
Bring your loved one for his/her healthcare team regular appointment, seek help as soon as any problems arise or if blood sugar levels persistently uncontrolled.
Needless to say, you want your loved one to stay healthy and prevent diabetes complication. The risk of long-term diabetes complications increased when blood sugar levels aren’t properly control over long period.
It’s frustrating when people with diabetes makes unhealthy choices. Though, there is a thin line between providing ongoing support and nagging. Your loved one may shut down and refuse your helps if you start lecturing or acting like a diabetes police.
Diabetes care is a lifelong responsibility. Diabetes self-management is important to improve diabetes outcomes, prevent acute complications and reduce the risk of long-term complications. Family and caregiver support are often positively related to improve diabetes self-management which can lead to a better health status and clinical outcome.
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1 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes Overview, What is Diabetes. Available on: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes . Last accessed 10 Jun 2021.
2 Young-Hyman D, de Groot M, Hill-Briggs F, Gonzalez J, Hood K, Peyrot M. Psychosocial Care for People With Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(12):2126-2140.
3 Malaysian Diabetes Educators Society. Diabetes Education Manual. 2nd ed. Malaysia:MDES; 2020