Becoming a caregiver 

Taking on the role of caregiver for someone who has type 2 diabetes can be particularly challenging. Like other conditions that start in adulthood, people may find it difficult to adjust to needing help with their care, or having to make changes to their lifestyle. Many may also have other conditions, which can make things even more complex. It’s important to find out the best way you can support them, and also the best way to take care of yourself in the process.

To care for someone who has type 2 diabetes can mean having total responsibility for their care, or for just a few aspects, such as picking up medicines, reminding/helping them to take their medicines, taking them to medical appointments, or preparing meals. It can also mean supporting them emotionally – reassuring them, being the voice of reason, or just listening to their concerns.


How can I help?

This depends entirely on your situation, but generally the more you know about type 2 diabetes, the more you will be able to help. Understanding what it means to have type 2 diabetes, how it can affect daily life, and advice for things people with type 2 diabetes should try to do or avoid doing.

It’s also important for you to understand the progressive nature of type 2 diabetes, and be on the lookout for signs of the condition progressing and ready to act on them.

Type 2 patient (Eladio) holding pen and book, with three other people

To know that you and the person you care for are on the same page, it’s useful to have a care plan. This could be something that you sit and write down together, or just something that you discuss between you or with their doctor or nurse, and can cover:

A meal plan. Diet and type 2 diabetes are so closely linked. Helping the person you care for learn how to balance what, when, and how much to eat can help him or her make smarter choices. Eating the way they do can help you be healthier too

A plan for being active and how to fit activity into daily life

A plan for taking medicines. You can help the person you care for stick to the treatment plan prescribed by their doctor or nurse. Learning about the different types of treatment for diabetes is another way to get more involved

A plan for checking blood sugar. This could be encouraging/reminding the person you care for to test their blood sugar levels, or they may need you to help them with this. Keeping accurate records can help their doctor know how well the treatment plan is working

 


Caring for yourself

If you’re going to take good care of someone else, you must ensure that you’re in the best possible condition to do so, and this means prioritising your own needs too.

You need to make time for yourself to do the things you enjoy or simply relax, which can really help to relieve the feeling of being under pressure. Keep a close eye on your health, making sure that you keep any appointments, eat well and get enough sleep, and also monitor your stress levels. 

Type 2 patient (Han) standing outside with arms raised in a pose

See your own signs of stress early. These may include anger, sleep problems, or forgetfulness. If you see these signs, you can take steps to make changes right away, before you feel overwhelmed

Figure out what is causing your stress. Maybe you just have too much to do. Maybe you feel that the person you care for is not doing enough. Whatever your sources of stress, once you know what they are, it may be possible to find ways to reduce them

Be clear on what you can— and cannot—change. We can’t change others. We can only change ourselves. Trying to change another person will only increase your stress levels. Ask yourself, “What can I change in this situation? What do I have control over?”

Take action to change what you can. Once you figure out what you can change, take action. That in itself can reduce your stress

Learn stress-reducing methods. Things like walking and deep breathing can reduce stress no matter what its source

Replace a negative with two positives. We all have negative thoughts from time to time. But negative thoughts have a way of mounting up— and bringing us down. So try this: Every time you have a negative thought, replace it with two positive thoughts. 

When providing support for someone else, it’s also important that you yourself feel supported. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends – people are usually very willing to help – or you could find a caregivers’ support group, which is a great way to meet people, chat through your feelings, and share tips. Don’t forget that the medical team responsible for the person you care for can also be a source of support – they know about the stresses placed on caregivers.

As well as the personal strain on you, caring for someone can put strain on your relationship with that person. Make a point of taking time out to check in with each other regularly so that you are both aware of how the other is feeling. Feelings of frustration, guilt or loneliness on both sides are normal, but a problem shared is a problem halved.


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