Being a caregiver for someone with diabetes is an important job filled with daily responsibilities and ongoing demands. As a diabetes caregiver, you can often end the day feeling overwhelmed.
Luckily, with a little education and preparation, you can balance it all out and become a top-notch, frontline support person for your friend or loved one with diabetes.
Be “In the Know”
Education is empowering! Learning about the basics of diabetes can help you to better understand the condition itself, as well as the steps necessary to help your loved one manage the daily demands of life with diabetes. Accompany them to healthcare appointments, and get to know their super-team of trained professionals. Read books, follow a blog or podcast, and make yourself as knowledgeable as possible about diabetes.
Beyond the basics of diabetes 101, make sure you distinguish the type of diabetes your loved one has and dive deep into learning about that type. There are many types of diabetes, and they each have different therapy approaches. Understanding what makes your loved one’s diabetes unique to them is key to providing the best care possible.
Luckily, diabetes education is abundant in this day and age. Your personal healthcare team should be your first stop, and there is no shortage of web resources you can go to. Here are just a few to help you get started on your journey to becoming a diabetic support ninja:
- The American Diabetes Association
- The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Diabetes
- The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
- Web MD Diabetes Health Center
Being aware of the needs of your loved one is a crucial part of your caregiver job from time to time. Preparation and awareness go hand-in-hand with being a caregiver for a child, or someone more elderly, who needs more involved assistance. In your continued search for education, make sure you stay on top of all things, such as:
- Managing Sick Days
- Testing blood sugars
- Monitoring comorbidities
- Healthy Fitness & Nutrition
- Proper pump and CGM use.
- Administering insulin injections for MDI therapy
- Knowing the signs for hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia
One of the unspoken challenges of being a caregiver is losing perspective. As a diabetes caregiver, it’s easy to forget that the person you are caring for is a whole person, and not ‘just a diabetic’. Whether your person with diabetes is an adult managing LADA diabetes or a teenager growing-up with type 1 diabetes, make sure you keep communication lines open. Don’t let the day-to-day grind of diabetes care cloud your vision about who you are doing all of this for.
People with diabetes are first and foremost, people! They have entire lives outside of their blood sugar levels! Respect personal preferences and take into account all of the feelings that life with diabetes can cause. They may be resistant to therapy changes or demands because of fatigue, frustration, or burnout. Help them to overcome that frustration, and encourage them to cooperate with making ongoing healthy changes.
Your goal should be to create an environment where diabetes is well controlled and well managed, leaving room for life, laughter, and joy. Allow your person with diabetes to vent, be goofy, or even make jokes about diabetes! Living with diabetes can be emotionally draining for your loved one, so make sure you help them enjoy all that life has to offer instead of just enduring daily diabetes demands.
A Word on Caregiver Burnout
We understand that being a caregiver is a full-time job. The time and effort invested is invaluable, but can sometimes leave you feeling underappreciated, and like you’re being spread too thin. If you are feeling constantly exhausted, stressed-out, or uncharacteristically frustrated, then there’s a good chance you’re experiencing caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout can occur at any time and can manifest as extreme fatigue, elevated stress, heightened anxiety, and even depression. If you are experiencing burn-out, it’s imperative that you acknowledge any changes in your behavior.
Find a healthy outlet to talk about your feelings and be realistic about what you can do to help balance the demands of being a diabetes caregiver while utilizing healthy self-care methods to maintain a positive mental outlook. You could also join a support group. There is nothing better than conversing with someone who just gets you! An online social-media-based group of caregivers can be life-changing if you’re feeling burned-out. That small shared community can help you find the joy in life once more!
Above all, remember the golden rule of caring for someone with a chronic condition:
Put the oxygen mask on yourself first!
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Pay attention to the basics like healthy food, hydration, and vitamins. Get a little sunshine and fresh air, and try taking a brisk walk every day. Remind yourself of the incredible act of love and service you are providing.
Being a caregiver is an important job and you are doing GREAT! Stay positive, be engaged, and always seek fresh motivation!