How to support your supporters
Every diabetes warrior I know is doing their best to juggle the many diabetes variables to ensure they live long, full and healthy lives.
After 18 years of trying to keep my blood sugars in range, it can often feel like I move two steps forward and then one step back. But with every hurdle I learn more, adjust, grow and carry on. However I must admit there are definitely moments where I’m exhausted, snappy, emotional and fed up with it all.
A diabetes diagnosis affects the entire family, not just the person living with it. We’re all in this together, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week trying to mimic a fully functioning pancreas.
I recently asked my husband Hayden (my #1 support person) how he felt about living and caring for someone with diabetes. “It is what it is, we can’t change it but at times it’s crap,” he told me. “The broken sleep because of night-time hypos is hard. I worry about you when your blood sugars are out of whack and it takes hours to get prepared for something simple like a family bush-walk.” He laughs as he remembers how he’s had to learn the difference between an angry wife and one with low blood sugars, directing me to the closet juice box rather than arguing back. (He’s a keeper xx)
Refusing to let Type 1 diabetes define our family life we choose to simply get on with it and muddle through together. But, over the years, I’ve realised I need to keep a close eye on my support crew to make sure they don’t get overwhelmed by the demands of caring for someone with diabetes. It’s so important that Hayden and I are mentally and physically fit, able to handle anything diabetes throws at us. ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup. You must take care of yourself first,’ as the saying goes.
Here are my top tips for looking after the diabetes support person in your life, whether they are your parent, partner, family member, friend or close neighbour.
- Time out – Make sure your carer has time to do something they enjoy on their own to recharge their batteries. Hayden disappears to the garage and tinkers on his 4×4.
- Seek help – Asking someone else to help with child care, cleaning or cooking can take the pressure off your support person, even if it’s just for a short respite from the daily grind.
- Keep talking – A problem shared is a problem halved. Rather than bottling it up share frustrations with each other. It will make everyone feel better and it feels good to be on the same page.
- Recognise high and lows – Episodes of hypo and hyperglycaemia can have a direct effect on your emotions. Being able to quickly recognise the symptoms, and knowing how to treat them, will help bring your mood back to normal and make you easier to live with!
- Be mindful – Five simple daily actions have been proven to improve wellbeing – connect, give, take notice, keep learning and be active. For more information check our my Five ways to wellbeing blog or go to: www.mentalhealth.org.nz/ways-to-wellbeing