November 14 was World Diabetes Day. The theme for this year was “The Family and Diabetes” which aims to raise awareness about the impact of diabetes on the family and the support networks of people with diabetes and promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention, and education of diabetes.
India is known as the diabetes capital of the world. According to the International Diabetes Federation, over 72 million adults in India have diabetes and the prevalence of diabetes in Indians is 8.8%, which means out of every 100 individuals at least 8 people suffer from the condition. Moreover, it also has a high rate of morbidity and mortality.
Diabetes is a known risk factor of various health problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, obesity, and even cancer. But what remains understated is the impact of the disease on the family, friends, and relatives of a person suffering from diabetes.
Yes! Diabetes not only impacts the physical health but also affects the mental health of the caregivers who play a key role in the management and prevention of diabetes. Caregivers can be anyone who helps take care of a person needing medical assistance. They can be parents, siblings, children, spouses, and partners. This world diabetes day, let’s focus on the role of caregivers in promoting good health for the patients as well as themselves to lead a healthy life.
Role of caregivers in the management of diabetes
Caregivers are the ones who handle everything when it comes to managing diabetes, especially for kids, older adults and people who have been diagnosed with diabetes lately. Right from taking medications on time to keeping a tab on the healthcare appointment, caregivers do everything. Here are common concerns many caregivers have and the tips they should follow to help their loved ones control diabetes.
What is the best diet for diabetics?
Diet plays a key role in the management of diabetes. Caregivers must ensure healthy meals for the patients, which includes diet less in salt, sugar, and oil or as advised by the dietician or nutritionist. They need to ensure that the diabetics eat fresh fruits and veggies and say no to processed foods as they increase the caloric intake. Make sure that diabetics never skip breakfast. They must include foods rich in fiber and protein as it helps in the slow release of glucose, thus helping a diabetic to control blood glucose levels. During festivities and parties, keep an eye on diabetics and make sure they follow portion control and avoid eating sweets. If the diabetics are facing difficulty in following dietary guidelines, then it is wise to opt for a customized diet plan from your nutritionist to keep sugar levels in control.
By doing so, a caregiver can not only ensure that each and every person in the family including the diabetics eats healthy and stays healthy. This way the blood glucose level of the patient can be managed and if anyone in the family is pre-diabetic they can follow the diet to prevent diabetes.
Diabetes Medication: How to lower blood sugar?
Diabetics should never skip their medications. So to make it easy for you to remember the timings of the medications, caregivers can buy a pill box. This way it will be easy for the person to keep a tab on the medications for an entire week without worrying about missing a dose. This makes sense, especially if you are a diabetic and also suffer from other health problems such as kidney disease or heart disease.
Another important tip that can help is to set an alarm on your phone as a reminder for taking meds. You can use smartphone-based “Pill Reminder” applications provided by various health apps including 1mg.com’s Diabetes Care Plan. This not only helps you to take medicines on time but can also help you to never skip a dose. However, if you feel that the dosage or timings of the medication need to be changed, ask your doctor to change the medications but never self-medicate.
Why do people with diabetes need foot care?
People with diabetes must check their feet every day for any injury to trauma. This is because diabetics might suffer an injury and may not even know about it until it gets infected or turns severe. If the person fails to do so, then either the family members or the caregivers must ensure this without fail. Also, diabetics must avoid fomentation as they might not detect even a minor burn due to diabetic neuropathy. Any signs of foot injury such as redness, swelling, or pus should not be ignored. Moisture the legs at home as going in for pedicure or foot massage can increase the risk of infections due to cuts or injury.
How often should diabetes patients go for a checkup?
Caregivers must ensure that the patient strictly follows the diet and medication recommendations advised by a doctor along with routine follow-ups. Taking medications can help you to keep the blood glucose level in control, but if you fail to keep up with your doctor’s appointment it might increase your risk of diabetes-related complications. Even if you have a blood glucose monitor at home, it is wise to consult a doctor and get a routine lab test every six months or as advised by the doctor.
People with diabetes are advised to get their eyes tested once every six months. This is because, changes in the glucose levels can impair the nerves in the eyes and lead to glaucoma, a condition that can cause permanent loss of vision. The same is the case with getting a kidney function test every year as it helps your doctor to know any changes in the kidney function and detect kidney problem if any in the early stages.
Can diabetes cause mental health problems?
Last but not least is the mental health of a patient with diabetes. The moment a person is diagnosed with diabetes, he goes through a lot of emotional trauma before finally accepting the condition. Studies have reported that significant depressive symptoms affect approximately 1 in 4 adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Although the exact cause of depression in diabetics is not known, diabetics go through mood swings which can impact their mental health. Hence, it is important for the caregivers to keep a close tab on the diabetic patients to look for symptoms of depression. Some of the common signs to watch out for include being irritable or feeling sad for a long time, sudden changes in the mood, feeling of anxiety and hopelessness, being lethargic for days at a stretch should be taken seriously. If a person experiences any of these symptoms, it is wise to consult a doctor and nip it in the bud as depression is a serious condition and should not be ignored.
How To Control Diabetes: Tips For Caregivers
It goes without saying that caregivers have to be on their toes when it comes to managing diabetes.
For a child with diabetes, a caregiver (usually the parents) has to be involved with day-to-day care including checking the blood sugar level, injecting insulin or giving meds, and adjusting insulin levels if using an insulin pump as advised.
For older adults suffering from diabetes, knowing about the signs of high and low blood glucose might be difficult, and hence a caregiver has to know these signs and take proper action in case of emergency. Moreover, a caregiver has to schedule regular appointments with the doctor and keep a tab on the sugar level (either through mobile apps or by maintaining a diabetes journal).
So given the loads of responsibilities a caregiver has to fulfill, here are few tips for caregivers to make their work to manage.
– Learn more about the condition by reading about the condition and its complications online. In case of any doubt, get your queries answered by your expert. This includes knowing when to check blood glucose level, the lifestyle changes to follow, the type of glucometer to use, etc.
– Ask for help when needed. If you are not able to follow the recommendations given by your doctor, ask your friends, relatives and other diabetics on tips to tackle the condition. It can include foods to eat and avoid, how much to eat, how often to exercise, etc.
– Know the highs and lows. Diabetes can put them at risk of various health problems right from obesity and heart disease to depression. Hence, learn to accept the fact and ensure you help patient to control blood glucose levels.
– Go for appointments with the patient. This can help you to know what extra precautions to take and what changes you need to make to ensure the proper management of diabetes.
– Follow the same diet pattern as the patient. This can not only make you more cautious when it comes to eating healthy but sharing the same fitness plan can help you to ease stress and stay healthy. Lifestyle changes become habits when done together. You can even get diet-related advice through e-consultation.
– Talk to other caregivers and also let the patient connect with other diabetics. Sharing the experiences can make it easy to deal with diabetes and understand more about the condition. You can reach out to diabetes communities or online support groups for help.
This World Diabetes Day, let’s do our bit to help diabetics manage their condition and lead a healthy life.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
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