Help! I'm in love with a diabetic!

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2010-08-17 15:44:07 -0500
Started 2010-08-11 07:48:16 -0500

Now that I have your attention…

I am a therapist and educator with a focus on individuals who have been diagnosed with a medical condition, and their loved ones and caregivers. Many of my clients are facing chronic conditions like diabetes. They often talk to me about issues that come up in their relationships, as do their partners.

What I have learned is that when one person in the family has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, in many ways the other members of the famiily have also recieved the diagnosis. Diet, lifestyle changes, finances, compliance with medical regimens… emotions… mood swings… everyone is affected. Some couples are able to partner up and work together, while others find the daily challenges to be overwhelming, or seem to want to pretend that if they ignore the challenges, they will go away on their own.

I think that the key is communication, talking about fears, frustrations, celebrating successes, staying focused on what's most important. Without communication, diabetes, and the daily challenges, can become an elephant in the room. Everyone knows its there but no one wants to admit that they see it. After alll, change is scary!

I am interested in sharing ideas — challenges, frustrations, successess — and cooping strategies from individuals facing diabetes and their loved ones are experiencing. I am always looking for new ideas to share with clients, and I hope that we can learn from each other. Anybody have an experience they can share with me?

Thank you!!!

16 replies

Mama Dee
Mama Dee 2010-08-15 23:54:04 -0500 Report

Happy day,
You have my attention because I do love & is married to a diabetic. To God be the glory for the things He has done is doing & will do. Be blessed & know that you are highly favored in the name of Jesus.

Working 4 Jesus, & Loving it.
Mama Dee

wiskyrapids 2010-08-13 20:32:06 -0500 Report

I am an Air Force wife currently living in Japan. Both my parents (they are both in their seventies) have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. My Mom also has emphysema, and my Dad has glaucoma. I am most concerned about both of them dealing with the diabetes. My Dad's blood sugar is very high, and it doesn't seem to be coming down. I think a lot of this is due to his unwillingness to change his diet. I know my mom is trying too, but she has difficulty staying on her feet very long, as she is very overweight, and I am sure there is some osteoarthritis involved as well. I am really looking forward to the day I can visit them and help out with recipes and diet changes, as I think this would go a long way toward their improvement in blood sugar levels and weight loss. Neither of them is very active, either, and I do not know how to go about getting them to exercise. Stubbornness is a very big issue here, and while I can try, I'm just not as stubborn as they are :) Any suggestions?

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-15 22:50:44 -0500 Report

Hi! I have to say that your post hits very close to home. I went through this with my own parents, both of whom had Type 2 diabetes. My father also had emphysema, and my mom osteoarthritis. I have to be honest with you: encouraging them to take better care of themselves was a constant challenge. I tried the scare tactics, and they felt picked on, and I realized that I was acting out of my own fear and that wasn't helpful to anybody. I tried educating them, along with lots of gentle encouragement. Probably the education and the encouragement helped the most. What I realized was that my parents were also scared, but they had spent years and years living one way and I wanted them to completely change and live another way, e.g. with a completely new diet and regular exercise, when they just hadn't been raised to live that way. I watched my father order lunch and I reminded myself that the cheeseburger and fries and apple pie was a treat to him, and this was how he gave himself a treat. What I did was to sit down with my parents and tell them how much I loved them and how I wanted them to be around as long as possible. I let them know that I was worried about the way they were eating and that they weren't getting out and moving enough, and that this was causing me a lot of distress. I asked them how I could help them to be healthier and feel better at the same time. I have to say that this at least got their attention. I was able to make some suggestions about healthier meals and snacks, and suggest that they get out and walk more. I gently checked in on them and gave them ongoing encouragement. I didn't create a miracle. I had more luck with my mom than my dad. My mom lost weight, and I gave her lots and lots of praise. I think the key was letting them know how much I loved them and wanted them happy and healthy. I was living four states away from my parents. I think that if you are around, and can stay in close contact -- including sharing meals -- this will make it a little easier. I hope this helps! Good luck!

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2010-08-13 17:50:12 -0500 Report

Over the years my husband and I had discussed diabetes and how it affects a couple. His Mom and 5 of her siblings where Diabetic. The main adjustment we have had is I am the one who has it and no one in my family has been Diabetic. No matter how frustrated I feel trying to figure out what to do - he is there helping. Sometimes he can only shake his head and say I don't know either. Not feeling alone helps so much. We had tried to help his mom understand what she needed to do. She chose not to take control of her diet, meds, and most other aspects. Like any medical problem it is up to the individual to decide what to do. We can help only as much as the person is willing to let us.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-17 15:44:07 -0500 Report

Hi! You bring up a really good point. It all starts with the invdividual who has the medical condition deciding to step up to the plate and take charge of the future. Having the right support team can help to motivate someone to get moving and can hold their hand and be cheerleaders and partners along the way. I have seen my share of diabetics who, out of fear or denial or just feeling overwhelmed, didn't want to do what they needed to do to take care of themselves. That is a sad thing to watch and it certainly leaves the rest of us feeling frustrated and helpless. Ideally, everybody on the team have to be working together, communicating, sharing ideas, sharing the frustrations and the joys. Sounds like your husband is working right along beside you on this journey. That's fantastic! Thanks for taking time to post!

monkeymama 2010-08-11 21:54:32 -0500 Report

Hello there Dr. Gary! In my house, it is a BIG BALANCE issue with dealing with my diabetes and other medical, younger two kids with a life threatening genetic disease (which carries plenty of secondary medical issues), and our oldest daughter with a bad combination of psychological issues along with a eating disorder and asthma. I am getting help now to deal with everything within me but there are other things lacking after the fact. Our house is quiet literally a crazy ball of stress medically. I use a medical binder for our house. It helps me keep medical information, medical notes, and more straight. Along with having a "small" tote for each person for their medications. I use a planner to help with all of the constant medical appointments. There is not 1 month we do not go without a medical appointment somewhere. Some have slowed down but others…well you know. It has helped with that but I am feeling emotionally drained from it all. My husband works full-time (rd shift), I am a part-time nursing student, and try to keep-up with the house, kids school things, and finances. It just feels like I am a single parent with an invisible husband at times. I handle 95% of EVERYTHING in our house. Help…"I"…this mother and wife…needs a serious break…and there is NO ONE who can help. WE have very little support outside of the house (family & friends wise). There is no such thing as "ME" time really. I am on guard at night with sons central sleep apnea, oxygen machine (for apnea), and occasionally his g-tube supplementing. I need a break before I completely lose-it. The program that they had with Kenosha Co for Respite Care; is no longer. School is like my only safe haven and break but even there is going to be something too. Can't seem to win here. Any ideas?

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-13 17:21:20 -0500 Report

Hi, thanks so much for responding to my post. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job multi-tasking and being a one-person support system for some very needy kids. But you have done this at a very high price -- your own self-care -- and its left you exhausted, physically and emotionally.

One of the things I always do with caregivers is to sit down with them and strategize on how to care for the caregiver. Often, caregivers don't take care of themselves while they place everyone else first. It sounds liike you recognize the risk in that. You are the rock in your house, and if the rock starts to crumble... well, you know. I'm sorry to hear that the Respite Care option is gone. I'm glad to hear that you are in school part-time. While adding to your workload, this is probably something that you enjoy and gives you a break from the other responsibilities. You also sound like a very resourceful person, so I am going to make a couple of suggestions at the risk of stating the obvious.

National organizations focused on a specific condition, including the genetic condition that your children suffer from as well mental illness, may have resources and suggestions that you can learn about by calling or by going on the Web, including resources for parents. You have probably already explored local resources, like your local hospital, in terms of what they offer in the community, but this can be a good resource for referrals and advice. Family and friends are sometimes be helpful, but it sounds like you have already considered this one.

I would also encourage you to find a safe place to talk about how you are feeling, someone who can listen while you talk about what's going on in your life, and even 'ventilate,' and help you to sort out your feelings. You might want to talk to a mental health professional, join a local support group for parents, or even find someone through one of these organizations that you can have regular conversations with by phone. I really think it would help you to have someone to talk to. I would also suggest sitting down with your husband, if you can, and talking to him about how you are feeling and letting him know you need some more support. He may not know. The two of you may be able to strategize on how you can get some more help and, especially, how he might be able to help you more. Sounds like you need a helping hand.

I know the challenges you are facing must seem insurmountable at times, if not most times. I would really encourage you to get some emotional support. I'm glad you are posting on DC, this is also a great resource to connect with people who are facing similar challenges and have ideas and inspiratiion to share with you.

Thanks again for taking time to respond. And please keep me posted!

GabbyPA 2010-08-11 21:03:56 -0500 Report

This is the one thing that many people don't understand. While we feel sorry for ourselves and pity of our new diagnosis and life long battle. We forget that there are other soldiers with us that fight for different reasons and with different emotions, but fight just the same.

There is the fear of loss, the frustration of isolation and forget them putting up with our mood swings! Something that helped my family a lot was being open with all of it and including them in my classes. It was a huge help to have a third party help explain things with less emotions attached to it all.

We are not the only ones who suffer, so we should always remember to love even more those who are willing to face the fight with us. Those people are VERY special, because they choose to be with us and this disease. We don't have the choice, so you tell me who is the stronger of the two. hmmmm.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-13 17:25:39 -0500 Report

Gabby, this is fantastic. You have really pointed out the importance of communication. When we don't know, we make assumptions. Clients facing daibetes often tell me that their family members don't support them in their diets, or run in the other direction when their mood starts to get out of control. And then family members tell me that they assume that the patient is embarrassed about diet restrictions, and so they don't bring it up, and that when the patient does experience a mood swing, they want everyone to get out of their way. The result is frustration and isolation, yet everybody thinks that they are doing the right thing. Again, that big old elephant in the room that everyone is stepping around. It all begins with talking. And as you pointed out, some compassion -- understanding that everyone wants to do the right thing even when it doesn't feel that way -- can also make a big difference. Thanks so much for sharing this!

GabbyPA 2010-08-16 21:49:54 -0500 Report

I like the analogy of the elephant in the room. It is amazing how small he becomes with a little open communication. LOL

bettymachete 2010-08-11 12:00:26 -0500 Report

Hi Dr. Gary, My first week after diagnosis with my family was tough. After the disbelief wore off we talked about the problem and what changes needed to be made for me but also what changes would be helpful for the whole family to adopt. I am very blessed to have such a supportive family. My family has also seen positive changes since I have been more mindful of my bg. I am far more energetic than I had been in a while, I am dancing and singing again and I include them in my exercise now, when before I was at it alone, so my kids are seeing me active and fun loving again instead of lethargic and feeling sick in my downtime. I went from butterfly to moth now back to butterfly…so while change can be tough, this kind of change is awesome. Now if I can just heat that bedroom up again, my husband will be happy.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-13 17:35:02 -0500 Report

Betty, this is beautiful. It sounds liike you and your family moved beyond denial and disbelief and really pitched in and made your challenges their challenges. As you pointed out, the diet and lifestyle changes that diabetics have to make can benefit the whole family if they can share in looking at the cup as half full instead of half empty, and seeing this as an opportunity for everyone to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Our physical and emotional sides work together and taking charge not only results in feeling better, but it creates a sense of empowerment that affects self-esteem and feelings of well-being. It's fantastic that your family can share in this. As for the bedroom, I am not a physician, but sex therapists that I have talked to have often told me that the most import sex organ is the brain. Emotional well-being can take you a long way in that part of the house, too! Thanks for taking time to post!!!

roshy 2010-08-14 17:55:42 -0500 Report

I thnk when a person is dnx. the whole family should make an appointment with the doctor to discuss the condition, its effects, new responsibilities etc.
I think a family should understand the condition just as well as the individual. It avoids confusion and misleadings surrounding the condition.
My father was a diabetic all his life and when the three of us (siblings) were growing up nobody sat us down and explained 'why daddy had to take a needle' or 'why daddy needs a biscuit for an emergency'. I really resented this When i eventualy got diabetes when i 16 i didnt realise the amount of care and attention this condition needs. My brothers are needle free and havnt a clue what i have we both deal with ! Their ignorance and lack of understanding used to make me laugh but used to make me angry iswell.
My eldest brother turned around one day and said ' sure i dont have the condition why do i need to know about it??" that really pissed me off!!!

Ill never forget the day i was first brought into the hospital and my other brother was on the phone to his friend!! all i could hear was 'did you hear about my sister?? shes after catching diabetes!!!' and no, hes not my little brother he was at least 22 !!!

I also have a neigbour who is diabetic and one day went into a hypo coma. Her husband came running into our house asking my dad to give her the glco injection!!!! My question is why the hell doesnt he know how to give the injection- hes the one married to her!!!

Once diabetes is there everyone should be able to understand the ins and outs the responsibilities, the highs and lows and the consequences of the condition!!
Families should attend the hospital, if a young person is struggling they should be encouraged for council ling.

I had another incident where a teacher refused to let me to go to get my kit from my bag after i explained i needed a sweet because im diabetic!! His reply was ' it can wait, now back down stairs'!!

Teachers need to know thier responsibilities too!!! i think its the responabilities of the hospital to contact schools so the matter is delt with properly and prfessionaly!!

well ive babbled on now but theres a few suggestions ya!!!

plenty more where they came from!!

lemme know what ya think!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-15 23:04:05 -0500 Report

HI Roshy, this was a great post. You really hit the nail on the head. Wow, you have really had some experiences. One person receives the diagnosis, but everybody in the house is going to be affected. I am sad to see how families don't sit down and everybody talk about what diabetes means to the person who has the diagnosis, how it is potentially going to affect that person and everyone else in the hourse, and how they can all work together. I think this is partly the result of denial. Not just the 'don't think about it and it will go away' kind of denial. But also the 'don't talk about it and it won't be a big deal' kind of denial. But it is a big deal for kids who watch and listen but don't have enough information to understand what's going on. That big old elephant is still in the room. The key is education. Parents need to make sure children are educated about diabetes and how their parent or sibling is being affected, and how they can help. And you bring up a great idea about teachers, who also need to be educated. Ignorance can result in stigmatizing the individual with diabetes. As you suggested, ignorance can also be dangerous. Parents can help by educating teachers, and giving them guidelines for responding to requests for food as well as responding to emergencies. Knowledge is power. Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your knowledge!

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