Family member with diabetes? Identify tht elephant in the room!

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2011-08-03 23:25:02 -0500
Started 2010-09-24 14:01:14 -0500


Family communications seems to come up a lot in the discussions on Diabetic Connect. I would really like to share a few thoughts about family relationships and see if you want to share any wisdom that you have gained along the way.

When one family member has been diagnosed with a chronic condition like diabetes, every member of the family shares that diagnosis in that their lives are impacted by it in some way. Adjustments may have to be made in family routines, dessert may be off the menu, compliance with the treatment regimen may be on everyone's minds. This can lead to feelings like fear, anger, sadness, disappointment, resentment. We're all human.

Unfortunately, family members don't always know how to communicate with each other, often because they aren't comfortable with their own feelings. They may deny how they are feeling or judge themselves and think they shouldn't be feeling this way at all.

Feelings don't go away by themselves. All of these feelings that family members may be holding back can be like an elephant in the room. Everybody knows it's there but no one wants to talk about it. If there is one word for this elephant, it is HELPLESSNESS. Family members want to fix the problem, make their loved one feel better and make the diabetes go away, and not have to feel this way. They are sitting with all of their own feelings, afraid to do or say the wrong thing, and hoping that by not doing anything, their feelings will go away on their own. But elephants don't go away that easily.

I encourage my clients to talk about their feelings with their family members and to encourage their family members to do the same. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to open the door to get the communication going. And who is in a better position to get the ball rolling than the one person that everybody else may be afraid to talk to about their feelings?

It can start with a simple question: How are you feeling today? What's going on with you? Tell me what's on your mind. Well, here's how I am feeling.

Get a dialogue going and watch the elephant slink out of the room.

Please let me know what's on your mind! Any experiences to share?

4 replies

Gimpalong 2011-08-03 23:18:29 -0500 Report

Hi Gary, you've got another great subject. I've been fortunate to have had great support from my late husband, and also my sons. One is away in another state, so he calls daily to check what my bg's are and how I'm feeling. He asks on a scale of 1-10, where do you rate yourself. This has led us into some interesting discussions.

The most recent support came from my 6 year old grandson at his Grandparents Day Breakfast. Each child was to get up to introduce their grandparents and why they were so special. My Zack gets up and says that he has a really cool grandma. She carries this bag around with her to poke her finger, and then she pokes herself in the stomach. Then he proceeds to ask everyone present if they'd like to see me do it! Red faced and wishing a hole would open up, half of his class says, "can we watch"!! That was the day I explained about diabetes and that the needles really didn't hurt. You try getting out of a demonstration of 35 little munchkins around you wanting to see. I gave my insulin shot in my arm, not my stomach. LOL. I think that maybe their parents understood more, and realized it wasn't contagious. We can always have opportunities to teach our families and friends about D. Maybe with the dialogue and explaining the support will come more easily. I think that patience is the key word for us and them.

Take care and have a wonderful week and weekend. Nancy

lmkilday 2011-08-03 23:00:09 -0500 Report

I only tell my sister and her daughter. I never tell my cousins any more. Their first question is always "Did your father have that?" If the condition came from my father's side of the family, then my cousins feel they don't have to go running to the doctor to be tested for the condition.They always want an autopsy on any deceased family member because they want to know if there were any undiagnosed conditions they or their children have to worry about.

realsis77 2010-09-25 10:35:59 -0500 Report

great article! When I told my mom I had diabetes she said she has it too. Problem here is she dosent have it.she dosent even go see a doctor! Anytime I'm ill or have a serious condition she says she has it too. It gets frusterating. Why would someone say that they have a disease like that? She has more energey than I do and is a healthy person.

Gimpalong 2011-08-03 23:25:02 -0500 Report

It may be frustrating for you, but maybe your mom in her own way is trying to keep you from feeling alone in dealing with your life challenges of diabetes or any other health crisis. Sometimes it is hard not having the energy to deal with these issues. Take care and know I'll be praying for you.

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