By Julie Dunneback, MSN, APRN, BC, CPNP, CDE
Life with diabetes presents many challenges and stressors. In the beginning, after moving past the shock and grief of diagnosis, the biggest challenge becomes learning the basic skills of diabetes caregiving.
These include: carb counting and providing a consistent meal plan every day; measuring
blood glucose levels at meals and prior to bedtime, as well as when one feels low; and proper use of mealtime and nightly insulin.
Learning how to take care of diabetes during times of sickness is also important, as is learning how to take care of diabetes during recess, gym class, basketball season, or vacations.
One must take these skills out into the real world of school or work and life with friends and family. Unfortunately, no one can fully understand what it is like to battle diabetes unless you are the person living with it, on that particular day, in that particular moment.
Diabetes affects the here and now, but also complicates each developmental milestone that a person with diabetes reaches.
Many good intentioned people offer suggestions, whether from other persons with T1D, parents of other kids with diabetes, teachers and counselors, or health care providers.
While these tips can be helpful, they may not necessarily be accepted.
The person with diabetes does not always want help or the solution that is offered. They may simply want someone to listen and to understand their experience.
Individuals often want someone to stand with them during times of stress, to listen, and to act as a supportive friend. Provision of love and acceptance is often more helpful than giving unsolicited advice.
With that in mind, please consider these diabetes dos and don’ts when interacting with persons with diabetes:
- Offer a listening ear, not judgmental comments or unwanted advice.
- Make no comment about dietary choices. Don’t ask if the person with diabetes can eat what everybody else is eating.
- Allow for privacy, if desired, or at the very least, do not call attention to blood glucose testing, injections or dosing if the person with T1D is using an insulin pump.
- Treat the person with T1D like any other friend or teammate; do not single them out because of their diabetes.
- Above all, see them as an individual, not as someone with an illness or a disease.
While these guidelines are often helpful, it is imperative to assist a person with T1D if they are ill, confused, or otherwise unable to assist themselves.
Most importantly, remember to take it one day at a time, especially when the burden is great, whether you are the caregiver or the person living with diabetes.
Daily diabetes care is hard work, and it’s ok to have an off day, just do not give up on yourself if the choices have not turned out well that day, start fresh the next day. Accept your best efforts each day as enough.