Spouses, partners, family members. Want to share experiences?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2011-07-08 13:51:56 -0500
Started 2011-07-01 17:44:12 -0500


I recently posted a discussion about how spouses/partners support, and don't support, their loved one with diabetes. As I said in my discussion, there are two sides to this issue, like with any issue. There are also a lot of reasons why spouses may have difficulty in being supportive, including that they are facing thier own challenges in adjusting to the many changes that may be required, as well as with their own emotions., their own feelings of helplessness when they don't know what to do or say.

People who are diagnosed with diabetes need a lot of support, but so do their spouses and other family members. As I said in my post, when one mamber of the family receives a diagnosis, in many ways everyone in the family is diagnosed.

Those of you who are living with someone who has been diagnosed have learned a lot through your experiences. You are the real experts on this topic.

I would really like to see what I can learn from you, and what we can learn from each other. And maybe I can offer you some support and ideas that I have learned from working with my clients in this situation.

So… what have been some of your greatest frustrations? Your fears? Your victories? What have you learned that you wish you had known when your loved one was first diagnosed? Any questions that you have? Any way other members can offer you support?

I hope you will consider jumping in on this discussion!


25 replies

knit57 2011-07-08 12:52:55 -0500 Report

I have bene on both sides of the fence. My ex-husband was type 1 - he was totally non-compliant - I couldn't be supportive. His parents blaimed me for his having to go on insliun. Said they had prayed about it, and he would have been cured if I had just believed… enough said. Now I am type 2 - my husband tries to be supportive, but he wants the ice cream and chocolate - he gets upset with me when I say, nope, I have already had my carb allowance for today, or I have plans for my carbs. I buy the bad stuff for him when he wants it, but buy stuff for me that is okay. He helps me remember to take my pills and is good about asking what my numbers are.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-08 13:51:56 -0500 Report


Thanks for checking in. The diet issue is a big one, isn't it? It comes down to feeling deprived -- the diabetic because they have to restrict themselves and the partner who feels pressured to live under the same restrictions. It is ironic at the same time, when the diabetic diet is also a healthy way to eat. I sounds like you have come to a happy medium with your husband, letting him eat what he wants but also not feeling like you have to join in with him and, in turn, he helps you to stay compliant. A good compromise, but also a lot of support for you.

Hope you have a great weekend!

NavyNerd 2011-07-04 19:36:49 -0500 Report

I was a family member of type2, until I became a gestational diabetic myself and the trouble I had with eclampsia and the diabetes fried my systems as it were and teh diabetes stuck with me. I have lost friends, family to this disease over the years. I have a lot of family that are still with me that suffer from it in varying degrees too.

When I was a kid I had a friend who was type 1, and she went into a sugar shock when she ate something she shouldn't have and she started to shake ferociously, and because I was the only one who could help her she asked me to give her her insulin. She couldn't do it herself she was shaking so bad.. It was my first real hands on exposure to diabetes, and it stuck with me, teh fear on her face, teh fear I felt. I had never injected anyone wor even seen it done really. She walked me through it. If she hadn't been able to I would never have known what to do.

I remember watching my mom struggle with hers, even though I was older when she was diagnosed, and she was diet controlled for a long time. My FIL though has been on insulin for many years and I remember thinking how difficult it would be. I was terrified of getting it myself, it was the worst thing I could imagine. I would watch my FIL give himself injections every day and I was so thankful that even if I had other health ussues that I wasn't diabetic. I had an immense fear of needles, paralyzing even. When I was diagnosed, my husband had to give me shots for months, because I couldn't bring myself to loook at the needles.

In thinking back it was as a family member and friend that I started to understand diabetes and searched for more information. When I found myself faced with the diagnosis, I thought about all the things I felt as a kid, as a duaghter, and tried to help my kids and husband starting from there. Now all my kids can check my sugar without directions, and I have drawn diagrams with instructions and pictures so they can help me like I helped my friend, in case I can't tell them how. Diabetes is part of every day life here and we make finding new things to eat an adventure.. I try to think of all the things that I would have wanted, and start there. I try to help them know its not as scary when you tackle it as a team.. even though some days I am still terrified because I have issues with cyclic insulin resistance due to another metabolic disorder and my sugars still get out of whack on a major scale.. I know they are scared too, and I think that if I had been able to really tell someone then it might have helped me in dealing with it around me. Now I try to talk to my own family so that they don't go through that same thing. I have discovered that letting them help me has helped them too.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-05 11:22:06 -0500 Report

Hi NavyNerd,

This is fantastic. I really learned a lot from reading about your experiences.

It's fascinating to me how your past experiences helped you to be empowered to manage your own self-care but also to help your family to partner up with you. Having been such a help to others in your life, you know the issues on both sides.

And with your additioanal complications, it sounds like your family has bonded together to make the fear factor more manageable.

Your reply really demonstrates the value of team work, getting support from your family, but also supporting them in supporting you. But also sharing feelings with each other, having a strategy in place to handle the emergencies, making diabetes a maageable part of everyday life, admitting that it affects everybody, and finding the best way to deal with it. Life on life's terms.

I hope a lot of people read your post. I think they would find it not only instructive, but inspirational. When one person in the family receives the diagnosis, everybody is affected.

I really appreciate that you took time to tell your story. It is great to be in touch with you! Thanks very much.

And have a great day!


VickieF 2011-07-05 16:53:31 -0500 Report

Hi Navy,
You know I think it is great that you teach them all how to give you your shots. I have three Grandkids that live close, ages 10,8,3 1/2. I teach them and let them give me my shots when they are with me. The 10 year old I let draw the insulin for me and do the whole thing. I show the other two how to, step by step. They are great too. They will tell me when to check it and when to eat. By the way I have my sliding scale from my DR. with my insulin so they check it and tell me how much insulin I get. LOL The little ones are more help than the older kids (their Parents. LOL)

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2011-07-04 09:27:09 -0500 Report

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with diabetes in the 1980's. I knew very little about Diabetes. She and my father-in-law new even less. The little I knew was from working 2 years in nursing homes as an aide. They learned a little from her Dr.
They both had grown up during the Great Depression and lived through hard times raising a family of 7 on meager wages. They were looking forward to fully enjoying their golden years. My husband was the youngest child, born after the others were all teenagers.
My mother-in-law was frustrated and couldn't understand how food affected her 'sugars'. Occasionally she asked me for help in trying to figure out what to eat to get her high levels down. I would read as much as I could, but the info was not as easy to come by back in the 1980's. The diet the Dr. and hospital gave her was confusing to her, measure this, avoid sugars, watch starches. She had no nutrition education. Learning what had worked all her life no longer worked was too hard for her to understand.
Then a few years later she was diagnosed with alzheimers'.
As her Alzheimers' progressed it was harder and harder. My father-in-law did not want to tell her she could not have her daily cinnamon roll or any other treat she wanted. Finally they reached the point where they were both ready for more help from me. I would provide the best meals I could. They would sometimes eat them. Other times they would go out for whatever she wanted. She was free to make her choices, even though they might have been bad for her diabetes.
As frustrating as the time was it was enjoyable. It was a challenge to find treats that were better for her and keep mealtimes fun. Like many other adult children of parents with medical problems we faced the struggle of knowing when and how much help to provide. We dropped the ball in knowing they did not understand how to use her BG monitor. It was almost 10 years before they allowed us to help much more than as an occassionally sounding board.
I always have wished I could have helped more sooner. But they were still very independent and most likely would have resented any "interference". It had to be their choice when to let us help and how. If I had spent my time telling them what they were doing wrong every time we went for afternoon cinnamon rolls after a healthy breakfast and lunch, the opportunity to help them would have been gone.
It was a juggling act of balancing physical and emotionl health of both of my in-laws through a very hard time. We did the best each of us could. There were failures and success. Laughter and tears.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-04 19:10:50 -0500 Report

Hi Graylin Bee,

This is an incredible story. One of the ironies life is to get this far, raise a family, be ready for a quiet retirement with some fun allong the way, and then to be stricken with a medical condition. It brings us back to facing life on life's terms, and those terms can certainly be harsh, can't they?

I am glad that it is only my job to help people cope with these challenges, and not to have to figure out why they happened.

It is always a hard balance to watch people in your parents' situation to try and have some quality of life, which may come down t having a cinnnamon roll when they want one, and trying to encourage them to take care of themselves. No one undersands this challlenge better than diabetics. It must been a labor of love to try and figure out snacks that they might enjoy. Only someone with your compassion and dedication to your parents would take on this job.

As I am sure you know, sometimes we have to pick our battles, and that means losing a few by refusing to fight. That's how we honor our loved one's dignity and independence. It is a juggling act!

I went through something similar with my mom, so it was especially meaningful to read about someone who was on a parallel track.

You alll did the best you could do. That is the most we can ask of ourselves.

Happy Independence Day!


Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2011-07-05 11:54:17 -0500 Report

Hope you enjoyed the 4th!
Life is often a confusing mixture of harsh and beautiful. It seems some of the most wonderful moments come during the harshest of times. I got to know my Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law so much better by being such an intimate part of their live. My Father-in-Law never lost his head over heels, love at first site, adoration of his beloved wife during their 63 years together.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-05 14:24:10 -0500 Report

Caregiving can be an opportunity to connect with someone in ways that you wouldn't have otherwse been able to. With the hard work and the heartache comes a gift. And in your case, to experrience, and observe, love in action.

I had a laid back 4th, just what I needed. I hope yours was good!

VickieF 2011-07-05 16:22:08 -0500 Report

Boy Dr. Gary, You hit the nail on the head. lol I cared 24/7 for my Mom and Dad for several years. Mom had Very Brittle diabeties. My Dad had a paralizing (left side) stroke (it also turned him into an overgrown little boy of about13). About a year after they had had to go into a nursing facility I started college (Made My Mom so happy.) I had an asignment to write a story about something we had went through. To make it short on here. I started writing about what Mom and I went through. It was called "Getting past the Past." In short we were able to talk about and fix some things that was keeping us apart emotionally.My Mom died a month before I wrote that Paper. I can say that My Mom and I were very close the last 3 1/2 years of her life. When she died it felt like I lost My Mommy, my Daughter and my Best Friend. What a wonderful gift that was even though it was heart wrenching. I would do it all again given the chance.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-06 21:05:38 -0500 Report

Hi Vickie,

Thanks a lot for sharing this. What a great story. You had the opportunity to come to closure with your mom, and that is something that so many sons and daughters would love to have had with their own parents, to express what had been left unsaid, to heal old disappointments, to understand and enjoy each other without the baggage and resentments. What a blessing. That must have been some paper you came up with.

Hope you are having a good week!


VickieF 2011-07-07 15:46:43 -0500 Report

Thank you Dr.Gary, The paper was easy to write since it was all true and from the heart. I am so bleesd to have had the chance to do that. The biggest lesson I learned from it was not to take family and friends for granted. If I have a question ask it. If I think I might have affended someone find out and don't leave it until it is to late to fix it. Most importanly is never be afraid to say I'm sorry.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-07 19:39:25 -0500 Report

Hey Vickie,

This was really well said. And I agree. I have learend over the years to take personal relationships very seriously. Nothing is guaranteed. Stay in the moment.

Thank you!


VickieF 2011-07-05 16:40:14 -0500 Report

Greylin,You Know that you were there for them through it all. You were a bright spot in their lives. How wonderful. ;)

jayabee52 2011-07-02 02:56:57 -0500 Report

Gary, I was both a caregiver for a Person with Diabetes and one myself, so perhaps I might be disqualified from commenting. I also was not with "Jem" when she was first Dx'd, nor was she with me. I understand the struggles Jem had because I've been through them myself. Her DM was confounded by her multiple medical challenges, in fact she said that one of her Drs told that her DM was due to her heart problems.

My future looks rather dim. I probably have a month or two until I will probably have to go on hemodialysis, but I am not dismayed, because I've been there before and survived.

Perhaps my greatest fear is that I will end my life alone, without a life partner, but I have been there before and I came out better because I met Jem.

I think I would like to find a fellow PWD to be a new life partner. Someone who knows what it is like to have DM and someone who can call me on my crap when I have a (rare) bad attitude. I will stop rambling now.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-04 18:59:29 -0500 Report

Hey James,

You are certainly not disqualified, just the opposite. You know what caregiving is like as a caregiver, and you know firsthand the challenges that diabetics face. You are an expert.

Being a caregiver is hard work, and so is having a medical condition, and wanting to have that one special person to travel the road along beside you

I am very sorry to hear that you are going to need to make the move to dialysis. I didn't know that until now, and I thought I knew a lot about you. That is a lot to deal with. I have know quite a few people in your same situation, and they are doing well. And you are the kind of person who steps up to the next challenge. I can't imagine you with a bad attitude.

While you wait to find your life partner, I know that you are connected to many people, including your family. While they can't quite support you at the level of a life partner, they can certainly be there for you. Alongside your friends on Diabetic Connect. I am glad to be your friend!

I hope you had a good weekend,


jayabee52 2011-07-04 20:23:57 -0500 Report

Well you know the definition of an expert, Gary, An EX is a has-been; A SPURT is a drip under pressure. An EXPERT must be a has-been drip under pressure. …

Yes the weekend was good, but I am looking forward to Tues. 7/5 when I fly to Ohio to visit mom, attend a family reunion, and the interrment of Jem in the Baker family plot. I'll be gone from here till 7/26 when I return.

The dialysis is not so bothersome for me as it was in 2006 & 07 when I was on it for 10 months. I had kinda been mentally preparing myself for this eventuality. I know the drill, I know the lay of the land, cause I've been there before. I know that I can travel to my #1 son's wedding in Oct if I make appropriate plans to get a treatment or two while I am there. It won't be a great burden this time because I was almost dead when I underwent dialysis before, and this time I am a bit more healthy in my mind and with with my diabetes control. So while I am not jumping for joy over needing this treatment, I also am not depressed about it either. It is what it is, which is for me a way to continue my life journey with a little more health than I would have without it.

And I do have my family and friends and my many friends here on DC.

I may not be on DC as often or as long in these next 3 weeks, but I certainly won't forget all y'all here. I am honored to be your friend Gary.


VickieF 2011-07-05 16:32:35 -0500 Report

James, You are welcome to talk to me on here about any of it. My Mom was on Dialysis the last three years of her life. I took her and waited and took her home. I sat through (worrying) her surgeries. I held her when she cried. I laughed with her when she laughed.
I also helped an online friend through his Mothers last year of dialysis and mastectomy.
I am here for a virtual shoulder to cry on, or someone to laugh with. I am sure Donald understands.

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