November Is Diabetes Awareness Month

Also published at All About Estates.
Diabetes is a disease that affects more than two million people in Canada today and with the population aging as it is, as well as the rising obesity rates, this number is only expected to increase. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) the cost for the healthcare system and economy was $11.7 billion in 2010, and costs will rise to $16 billion by 2020. As a caregiver of someone who has been recently diagnosed with a form of diabetes, this can sound daunting.

Anytime that a loved one is diagnosed with an acute or chronic disease, things can feel overwhelming. You may ask yourself “what could we have done differently?” or “how are our lives going to change?”

As a caregiver, the first step you can take to help your loved one would be in understanding the disease.

Get Informed:
Diabetes education is a vital first step. Diabetes is a disease which occurs when the body does not produce or utilize insulin properly. Insulin is what the body uses to change sugars and starches into energy. There are 3 types of Diabetes that you or your loved one can be diagnosed with. The first is a temporary form of diabetes called Gestational Diabetes and it can occur in about 3.5% of all pregnancies, involving a greater risk of developing diabetes for both mom and baby.

The second form of Diabetes would be Type II diabetes which is when the body does not correctly use the insulin it produces or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. This form of diabetes quite often develops in adulthood and accounts for approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes.

The third type of Diabetes would be Type I diabetes and accounts for 10% of all cases of diabetes. The cause for this form of diabetes still remains unknown. This form of diabetes quite often develops before the age of 30 and can occur when the body’s defense system attacks insulin-making cells in error, or when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin at all.

Finally, Prediabetes is the stage at which your blood glucose levels are close to the levels at which you would be diagnosed with diabetes. Not all individuals who have prediabetes will progress to diabetes however some do, so it is important to know what factors may impact ones blood glucose levels to increase the chance that they normalize.

If not treated properly, Diabetes can come with some very serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, visual impairments, and kidney disease to name a few. So as a caregiver of someone living with diabetes, what can you do to ensure they live a long, healthy life?

Get Support:
Know what resources are available to help you and your loved one.
As a caregiver you will also want to understand the disease as it will require a change in your every day routine with your loved one. Talk to others who have the disease or are living with someone who has diabetes and keep a positive and realistic outlook.

Contacting your local Canadian Diabetes Association office is one resource that can assist you in gathering more education on the subject of Diabetes. They often offer support groups for the person living with diabetes as well as support groups for the caregiver, a multitude of programs as well as education in the workplace. Another option would be to check out your local hospital, as they frequently offer programs and information sessions for the person living with Diabetes as well as the Caregiver.

Know Your Role:
Ultimately, it is the individual who is living with diabetes who has to take responsibility for their lifestyle changes in order to stay living a healthy life. You as the caregiver can only help to make the adjustments easier. If your loved one is not cognitively able, you as a caregiver may play a more significant and vital role in managing your loved ones diabetes. You will be ensuring that they are eating a well balanced diet, low in fat (especially saturated and trans fat), moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grain foods, vegetables and fruit. You may also be the one to ensure that they are taking their required medications. A nurse may need to be hired to administer any more significant injections or blood glucose testing, and this can be done by contacting your local Community Care Access Centre.

Lifestyle Management:
As the caregiver of someone living with diabetes you will want to reduce the stress in both of your lives as much as possible. Staying active and exercising frequently not only benefits your physical health by reducing your blood glucose levels, promoting weight loss and keeping your blood pressure down, but will also benefit your emotional wellbeing by decreasing the daily stress in your lives. Do things you both enjoy and set time aside for yourselves as a method to keep stress levels down and relaxation to a maximum.

Today, eating healthily, I believe, is easier today that it was years ago. Labels carry ingredients and carbs and calories and trans fat information. As a partner, caregiver, you can go grocery shopping together. Generally, the responsibility lives with the person who has the disease, they need to be open to your interventions. Otherwise, this can be very frustrating for their partner/caregiver.

Work as a Team:
A strong united force will help any battle and when it comes to your health, or the health of a family member/loved one, you want the best force possible. Your team may consist of:

– The individual with diabetes
– You the caregiver
– Family Physician
– Dietician/Nutritionist
– Eye Doctor
– Social Worker/Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Marriage and Family Therapist
– Podiatrist
– Dentist
– Exercise Physiologist/Physiotherapist/Kinesiologist/Trainer

Individuals must take responsibility for their own health and can be assisted by a caregiver who prepares meals etc. As a caregiver – one can support the care recipient in making lifestyle adjustments but it truly has to come from the person himself or herself.

-Audrey Miller

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