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Helping the Diabetic Manage Their Diabetes With Family Support

Written by kimmel52 on November 11, 2008 – 11:17 pm

By Nancy Kimmel R.N., Ph.D., C.H.M.M.

The quality of life and health are greatly increased when those who are diabetic control their blood glucose levels consistently throughout the day. Tight glycemic control can prevent many of the illnesses associated with diabetes such as peripheral neuropathy, glaucoma, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. A good predictor of careful blood glucose monitoring is the Hemoglobin A1C test. This test can measure the amount of glucose that has bound to blood cells over ninety to a one hundred and twenty day period, which is the approximate life of a red blood cell. As it happens, glucose, once bound to a red blood cell, stays bound to it for the course of the blood cells life. The acceptable level that indicates good glycemic control is 7.0% or less. (1). Levels greater than this indicate that the diabetic individual needs to exert greater control over their blood sugar levels. Many times, diabetics will insist that they are doing a successful job at monitoring their blood glucose levels, until their hemoglobin A1C results come back with results greater than 7.0%.

It is not unusual for diabetics to become frustrated, or overwhelmed with the task of managing their blood glucose, administering insulin and eating a well balanced diet. Those diabetics, who have led a sedentary life style, are over weight, drink and or smoke, are placing their health in jeopardy by not adhering to their blood glucose monitoring regime. Finger sticks two to four times a day are not pleasant. Combine that with the insulin injections, and it is no wonder that many diabetics continue to ignore their medical problem. Also, many diabetics will say that they feel good, so there is no reason to monitor their blood glucose carefully. What the diabetic needs to understand is that although they may feel well, their blood glucose can still be at a level that is physiologically destructive. A blood glucose level of 160mg/dl may not make the diabetic notice any physical symptoms, but internally that extra sugar can break down muscle tissue, affect their kidneys and start plaque build up in their arteries by raising their LDL’s (low density lipoproteins). Family, friends and visiting nurses can help the diabetic manage their blood glucose consistently. Those members of the family who buy the groceries should keep healthy foods on hand for snack time such as yogurts, carrots, fruit, nuts, and whole grain cereals. Family members should try to eat the same foods as their diabetic member. Limiting carbonated beverages, cakes, cookies and processed sweets in the household will help the diabetic family member realize that they are important and help them to adhere to a well balanced diet. It is important for the diabetic family member to know that they are not alone.

Friends can help in a similar fashion by suggesting a healthy restaurant when dinning out, such as Mediterranean or sea food cuisine. The visiting nurse can help by meeting with the diabetic client and the rest of the family, offering praise, support and knowledge. Praise and encouragement from the nurse can help renew the clients hope and the family’s commitment to the health of their loved one. The visiting nurse can bring new knowledge about treatments and tests, verify that the client is using the equipment properly and assess the injection sites. They can also bring supplies to the home, such as syringes, alcohol wipes and brochures.

Diabetic support groups are also very helpful. Family members should encourage their loved one to attend and accompany them. The more knowledgeable a family is about their loved ones illness the better they will be at helping them manage their condition successfully.

Family members need to encourage their diabetic loved one to express their feelings. Let them weep, cry, yell and or scream. Give them the freedom to express their emotions in an accepting and loving environment. Whether the diabetic is six or sixty, diabetes can make one feel all alone, and this can lead to apathy towards their illness. Family and friends can play a crucial role in helping the diabetic manage their blood sugar so that they can live a long, healthy and happy life.

Below is a list of some of the diabetic support groups.

1. Lewis, Heiitkemper, Dirkesen, Medical Surgical Nursing 6th ed., Copyright 2006, Mosby, St. Louis., pages 1273 -1278.
2. www.defeatdiabetes.org/support_groups
3. www.accu-chek.com
4. www.Type2Diabetes-Info.com
5. www.ChildrensDiabetesFdn.org
6. www.diabetesinmichigan.org
7. www.diabetesmonitor.com

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