November 14, 2019 - 2:57pm -- collins.1703

Helping a Family Member Cope with Diabetes 

November is American Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a serious and costly chronic disease that affects about 10% of all US adults. What's often lost in this statistic though, is that they have loved ones who often share the burden of managing diabetes. When a person is diagnosed with diabetes they often have multiple behaviors that they are asked to adopt, including changing eating and physical activity patterns, monitoring blood sugar and taking medication. Loved ones can either help or hurt someone manage diabetes depending on how they communicate and interact.  Poor relationships between family members can lead to poor diabetes self-care, high blood sugars, stress, and many other negative health outcomes.

Family members and loved ones can help a loved one by adopting these strategies:

  • Be aware that behavior change is difficult and can take months to develop a habit. People go through different stages and can even relapse.
  • Nagging doesn't help people change. They have to be motivated to change themselves. Others in the family can help the person with diabetes discover their own internal motivations. Asking questions that start with "what, why, how" can get loved ones thinking about what they are looking forward to in life and why it might be important to manage diabetes.
    • “What are you looking forward to within the next six months?”
    • “How will diabetes affect your plans?"
  • When it comes to discussing the potential consequences of inaction, use "I” statements and observations versus “you” statements, which can come across as shaming or nagging. For example:
    • “I care about you and I'm worried about the complications that diabetes can cause if we don’t make some changes.”
  • Listen to your loved one's frustrations, concerns, emotions. Repeat what they say so they know you are listening.
  • Change your own habits and behaviors to support your spouse or family member. If you don't eat healthy, it won't be easy for your loved one!
  • Family members need to be on the same page in terms of understanding diabetes management. Visit the doctor together and ask questions or take classes together. Consider taking Dining with Diabetes: Beyond the Kitchen together. The course focuses on carbohydrates, fats, sodium, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This easy to follow three-module course includes interactive presentations, videos, activities, and access to trusted resources and apps.
  • Encourage your family member to set their own goals, and to find someone to hold them accountable.

Sources

American Diabetes Month. American Diabetes Association. (2019). Accessed at http://www.diabetes.org

Dellifield, J., Remley, D., Baker, S., Bates, J. Communication Strategies to Support a Family Member with Diabetes. (2018). Ohioline. Accessed at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5322

Treber, M. Set a Wellness Goal for the New Year. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. (2019). Accessed at https://livehealthyosu.com/2013/01/07/set-a-wellness-goal-for-2013-4/

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, Wellness. OSU Extension.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Ross County.

November is American Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a serious and costly chronic disease that affects about 10% of all US adults. What's often lost in this statistic though, is that they have loved ones who often share the burden of managing diabetes. When a person is diagnosed with diabetes they often have multiple behaviors that they are asked to adopt, including changing eating and physical activity patterns, monitoring blood sugar and taking medication. Loved ones can either help or hurt someone manage diabetes depending on how they communicate and interact.  Poor relationships between family members can lead to poor diabetes self-care, high blood sugars, stress, and many other negative health outcomes.

Family members and loved ones can help a loved one by adopting these strategies:

  • Be aware that behavior change is difficult and can take months to develop a habit. People go through different stages and can even relapse.
  • Nagging doesn't help people change. They have to be motivated to change themselves. Others in the family can help the person with diabetes discover their own internal motivations. Asking questions that start with "what, why, how" can get loved ones thinking about what they are looking forward to in life and why it might be important to manage diabetes.
    • “What are you looking forward to within the next six months?”
    • “How will diabetes affect your plans?"
  • When it comes to discussing the potential consequences of inaction, use "I” statements and observations versus “you” statements, which can come across as shaming or nagging. For example:
    • “I care about you and I'm worried about the complications that diabetes can cause if we don’t make some changes.”
  • Listen to your loved one's frustrations, concerns, emotions. Repeat what they say so they know you are listening.
  • Change your own habits and behaviors to support your spouse or family member. If you don't eat healthy, it won't be easy for your loved one!
  • Family members need to be on the same page in terms of understanding diabetes management. Visit the doctor together and ask questions or take classes together. Consider taking Dining with Diabetes: Beyond the Kitchen together. The course focuses on carbohydrates, fats, sodium, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This easy to follow three-module course includes interactive presentations, videos, activities, and access to trusted resources and apps.
  • Encourage your family member to set their own goals, and to find someone to hold them accountable.

Sources

American Diabetes Month. American Diabetes Association. (2019). Accessed at http://www.diabetes.org

Dellifield, J., Remley, D., Baker, S., Bates, J. Communication Strategies to Support a Family Member with Diabetes. (2018). Ohioline. Accessed at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5322

Treber, M. Set a Wellness Goal for the New Year. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. (2019). Accessed at https://livehealthyosu.com/2013/01/07/set-a-wellness-goal-for-2013-4/

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, Wellness. OSU Extension.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Ross County.