When someone you love receives a diagnosis like diabetes — whether it’s Type 1 or Type 2 — it can be a life-changing moment. Just as they go about learning what they need to do for their health and how best to live with their condition, finding ways to step into the supportive caregiver role and adjusting your perspective and lifestyle to look after their health is imperative.
For caregivers, a top priority is finding the right balance in your role: This means finding exactly how to be the most helpful and encouraging presence you can be, figuring out how to help them keep all the plates spinning of managing appointments, medications, devices (like Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 system) and more, all while respecting an individual’s autonomy and understanding that their emotional and physical journey is unique.
You may be asking yourself, what’s the best way to even begin that process? Well, it’s always best to start by talking to the person you’re caring for to get a read on what they need and want.
“To really be supportive, [caregivers] need to ask the individual questions,” Megan O’Neill, PA-C, CDCES and medical science liaison with Abbott’s diabetes care business told SheKnows. “Ask them to talk about it. Ask them to say what is helpful and ‘how you can be of support?’ I think that’s probably one of the key things. Let them know ‘I’m not trying to police you or be judgmental, I’m just here to help.’ Laying that strong foundation is a good place to start for support.”
Another early step you can take is to inform yourself about how the person you’re caring for is choosing to manage their diabetes and keeping track of their glucose levels. For those using Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 system, being a supportive caregiver can be a bit easier. The FreeStyle Libre 2 system is the only integrated continuous glucose monitoring (iCGM) system available that continuously transmits glucose data every minute with customizable, optional real-time alarms† to alert users and their caregivers when their glucose is high or low without scanning or painful fingersticks.‡ Now available for children (ages 4 and older) and adults with diabetes, this latest technology sustains performance for up to 14 days,1 providing trends, insights and actionable data, giving you peace of mind that you’re making the best choices for your health.
To support caregivers as they evolve into their roles of caring for someone with diabetes, we spoke to real-life caregivers and people living with diabetes to get some insight.
Don’t make assumptions
“When I was first diagnosed, I had a boyfriend say to me, ‘You must feel like this is a death sentence.’ And I wish he would have just asked me how I felt. And I think that can be applicable to so many situations, but especially for caregivers: If you don’t have diabetes, you don’t know what it feels like, but you can certainly be empathetic and ask somebody ‘How does it feel? What is it like to have to adjust to tracking your levels and being on medication potentially or being on insulin? What does it feel like? Are you disappointed that things have changed?’ I think to me, don’t make assumptions about how you think the other person is feeling because managing diabetes is an individualized experience.
Both my grandparents had diabetes. My mom worked for the American Diabetes Association so I have a close personal connection to understanding diabetes. And I always knew it was a strong possibility I was going to get it…so for me, I wasn’t devastated. It did change my life. But, you know, I guess I would just want caretakers to know that it’s different for everybody.”
— Alysse D., founder of Ready to Stare
Be kind and patient with yourself— and your loved ones
“My advice for other diabetes caregivers is to do your best, while also giving yourself grace. When I left Children’s Hospital over two years ago after my son’s diagnosis, I had no idea what managing his diabetes would fully entail. However, I knew my son and family would weather it all just fine. A positive mindset goes a long way.
If you have a child who has diabetes, their emotions about it may change over time. The first year and a half was smooth sailing. My son still had a positive outlook and rarely complained. However, things later shifted, and he hit a point of getting tired of daily diabetes management. Things like having to go to the nurse’s office at school to get insulin or make smarter choices about sweets/carbs was becoming a chore and bore for him. On top of that, none of his close peers at the time had diabetes.
As a mother, the time he was frustrated, or I had to say no to a snack he wanted was difficult. In those times, I found it important to validate that it’s ok for him to be frustrated and to also remind him that this doesn’t define his whole life. When he wants to skip [managing his diabetes] or would prefer to get insulin later, I remind him that if we prioritize this one or two minutes of ‘handling his business’ it will lead to enjoying his food and returning to normalcy. The point is perspective matters, and this lesson doesn’t just apply to diabetes, but our perspective on anything is so important. On the days where your loved one may be having a rough day, don’t beat yourself up. Remember to keep the perspective that it happens and remind yourself that a more pleasant moment is on the way.”
— Shalyce T., founder of ShalyceTyson.com
Get organized! And find helpful tech to keep track of everything
“Since my diagnosis, I am so mindful of every piece of food going into my mouth and how it will affect my glucose levels and my overall health. I’ve gained a lot of self-discipline and self-control when it comes to food/beverages. I also carry extra supplies and low snacks everywhere I go. In addition, I wear my [diabetes management devices] all the time to make sure I can correct my glucose level immediately if they fall or rise too quickly. I’ve shared with everyone I know how to assist me if my glucose levels drop too low.
This condition is not easy by any means but with the proper medication (insulin), food, exercise, technology, support system from family and friends, and a determined mindset, I know that I, and so many other people with diabetes, will get through this day by day!”
— Amanda R., founder of The Chambray Bunny
“Organization has really helped with my caregiving. There are times where we can have two appointments a day, four days a week. Having a written calendar and a family Google calendar has really helped to keep track of multiple appointments.”
— Kelly S., Family caregiver
Seek out community support
“A final tip I have for caregivers is to build community with others who are faced with diabetes. Over the past year and half, we’ve connected with JDRF through things like their One Walk and local chapter, and it has been amazing for my son and our family. Raising funds for a cure, connecting with our local Type 1 Diabetes community and more has helped us not feel alone. We even recently discovered that there is another [person living with Type 1 Diabetes] on my son’s football team. By sharing our journey, it not only provides awareness, but helps to extend our community of support.”
— Shalyce T., founder of ShalyceTyson.com
This article was created by SheKnows for Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 System.
The FreeStyle Libre 2 system includes a self-applied sensor (the size of two-stacked quarters) that is the easiest glucose sensor to apply1 and worn on the back of the upper arm, eliminating the need for painful fingersticks to test glucose levels.‡ Easily check your glucose levels with a painless2 one-second scan instead of a fingerstick.‡
WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS*: The System must not be used with automated insulin dosing (AID) systems, including closed loop and insulin suspend systems. Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment. Do not take high doses of Vitamin C (more than 500mg per day), as this may falsely raise your Sensor readings. Failure to use the System according to the instructions for use may result in missing a severe low blood glucose or high blood glucose event and/or making a treatment decision that may result in injury. If glucose alarms and readings from the System do not match symptoms or expectations, use a fingerstick blood glucose value to make diabetes treatment decisions. Seek medical attention when appropriate and contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) or visit* www.freestylelibre.us for detailed indications for use and safety information.
*For full indications for use and safety information, see more here.
†Notifications will only be received when alarms are turned on and the sensor is within 20 feet of the reading device
‡Fingersticks are required if your glucose alarms and readings do not match symptoms or when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol in the first twelve hours.
1Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care.
2Haak T, et al. Flash glucose-sensing technology as a replacement for blood glucose monitoring for the management of insulin-treated type 2 diabetes: a multicentre, open-label randomised controlled trial. Diabetes Ther. 2017;8(1):55-73.