I have been compensated by Glucerna for this post; however, I am sharing my own thoughts. All opinions are my own. Talk with your health care provider about a diabetes management plan that’s right for you. #GlucernaChallenge #CollectiveBias
I sat there in disbelief. Denial really.
My husband, the father of my little girl, had something I prayed we’d never have to deal with.
Suddenly I was transported back 20 years earlier. I was in my 20s, in school and far away from my parents when I got the news that my mom had diabetes. She, like my husband, was in her 40s and I worried. Living several hundred miles away from her during those first few years , I had no clue what caring for a diabetic was like. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized just how difficult a road this could be with all the health risks, scary episodes, frustrations, and fear.
At first, I only heard about what my parents had to deal with. Actual first-hand experiences, where I saw my mom’s health at risk, soon followed. After a cancer diagnosis, I became her caregiver during chemotherapy, a role I never wished for, but wouldn’t have traded for the world. I quickly learned that diabetes and cancer didn’t go well together.
It’s with this history that I sit here today caring for a diabetic. It scares me. It intimidates me. It angers me. Though it is not my diagnosis, it affects almost every aspect of my life. Once again, I’m a caregiver – a role I never wanted, but one I willingly accept.
The ABC’s of Caring for a Diabetic
The A – ACCOUNTABILITY
While we could let my husband deal with this battle on his own, I’m a firm believer that you do better when you are surrounded by a team who loves and supports you (even if that love sometimes is “tough”). Accountability is crucial in so many areas for a diabetic patient. That is why I am excited to start this 90 Day Glucerna® Challenge which will be a great way to hold my family accountable for keeping up with their healthy habits and nutrition.
Exercise: This is a tough one for many. Getting active. There can be so many obstacles when it comes to exercising. Between finding time, having energy, and battling depression; it can be challenging. Whether it’s a family member or a friend, an accountability partner in this area is so helpful. If you see the patient struggling to get active, help in small ways. Offer to work out together. Set small goals. Offer non-food rewards. Play chase at the park with the kids. Park further away at the mall. Any little bit helps.
Diet: If you thought exercise was tough, food can be even more of a challenge for so many reasons. For the diabetic, it’s not just about giving up sweets, it’s about maintaining a consistent blood sugar throughout the day/night. It’s a complete overhaul, one not for the faint of heart. It’s going from 3 meals a day to eating more often. It’s counting carbs. It’s making sure the blood sugar doesn’t go too high, but yet watching to make sure it doesn’t get too low. Once a diabetic, their day to day routine never goes back to normal. It always is “on the brain” and that can be difficult.
While sometimes the diabetic will take charge of their own meals, many times it’s up to a caregiver to decide what to offer for meals and snacks. While it’s not necessary, I’ve found it easier to have the entire family change their diet. While I’ll admit my 9 year old still gets to enjoy special treats from time to time, they aren’t usually in the house. I don’t want to set my husband up to fail. A quick discussion about what my husband ate at lunch while at work, helps me know what to plan for dinner. If lunch contained a bit more carbs than I’d like to see, I try to plan dinner accordingly with less carbs.
One of the most important things I do is to always keep an appropriate snack with me at all times just in case of an emergency. It’s crucial that my husband does this as well, but I realize I have to be his back-up.
Checkups: There are so many health risks associated with diabetes, from foot infections to glaucoma and more. Keeping oneself healthy after a diagnosis means knowing the risks and visiting a healthcare provider to monitor and provide guidance and care. For me as a spouse, that has meant making sure appointments are made timely. For my husband that means we schedule regular checkups with his primary care physician every 3 months to check his A1C level, an important number to know for diabetics. It means visiting his ophthalmologist annually to check for eye disease, common in diabetics. It means regular visits to the dentist and cardiologist, just to be proactive. Simple reminders to make the appointments can be crucial to well being of a diabetic.
The B – BE EDUCATED
Whether a spouse, a child, a family member, friend or co-worker, having knowledge about the diabetic patient’s diagnosis and care is so important. I learned this first hand on a family trip to Mexico when my mom had a severe diabetic episode. Even though I was an adult, I only knew the bare minimum about how to help her in case of emergency. I quickly found out that I needed to learn more, for her benefit, and for us all.
I’m a firm believer that anyone who has regular contact with a diabetic needs to know about their condition. The co-worker needs to know as sometimes emergency help may be needed. Obviously, the closer you are to a person, the more you need to know. As a spouse, I need to know just as much as my husband. If you’re me, that means you learn MORE than your husband. Of course, sometimes that can be frustrating to him I think, but I hope he realizes that it’s only because I care so much – too many people I love have been devastated by this disease. Sitting here now, I’ll tell you that my aunt passed away unexpectedly this past Spring when she was hospitalized – diabetes complications.
What do you need to know? At a minimum, and depending on your relationship, you should try to know all the medical contacts and medications taken as well as an emergency medication/food. You should know what to do in an emergency and what signs of diabetic distress are. My mom was not able to communicate at all during a severe episode.
Learn about blood sugar and the ins and outs of “carbs”. This can make a huge difference in diet and blood sugar levels. There are many classes (some free) offered by hospitals on diabetic care and/or nutrition.
The C – THE CARE IN CARING
The most important thing to remember when caring for a diabetic is perhaps the one that means the most to the patient. Don’t forget the CARE in CARING!
Diabetes is a hard diagnosis to swallow. As a daughter, wife, niece and grandchild of those diagnosed, I’ve seen the denial, worry, the frustration, the fear, the depression and struggle. It’s real. The best thing I can do is to just be there. For whatever. Whenever. It’s letting them know they are loved and that they aren’t alone, even though it’s the card they were dealt.
I’ll be honest, though we both have a strong family history of diabetes, we are still new in this journey. The last 9 months has changed our family and I’m excited to take one more step to encourage my husband as I’ve accepted a role as a Glucerna® Brand Ambassador.
One of the biggest challenges any diabetic faces is the controlling of blood sugar levels, something that is learned by trial and error at times. There are so many things that can impact it other than food, like stress, travel, illness and exercise. My husband has been incredible these last few months, determined to take on this “beast” called diabetes. He’s lost weight by focusing on portions. He regularly combines any carbs with protein and is excited to get some extra help with that thanks to Glucerna. And we gladly welcome the help!
My husband will be enjoying both Glucerna® HungerSmart™ Shakes and Glucerna® Crispy Delights Bars over the next few months and I can’t wait to share with you how it goes.
Here’s what we are excited about – that both the Glucerna® HungerSmart™ Shakes and Glucerna® Crispy Delights Bars each feature CARBSTEADY® which is scientifically formulated to help minimize blood sugar spikes*. I find them at my local Walmart, in the diabetic care aisle.
The shakes have 15 grams of protein to help manage hunger, while only having 6 grams of sugars and 1 carb choice per bottle*, and the Glucerna® Crispy Delights Bars have 10 grams of protein. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from my family, it is that carbs are okay, they are necessary, but it’s best to combine carbs with protein.
I’m proud to be partnering with Glucerna, but more importantly, I’m grateful for the fact help these products give diabetic patients everywhere a nutritious and well balanced snack or meal option. Learn more about Glucerna and take the challenge with us!
What are some ways you or someone you love manage their diabetes?
*Use under medical supervision. Do consult with your healthcare provider or nutritionist regarding which diet / lifestyle is appropriate for your condition.
**Compared to high glycemic carbohydrates.