When A Loved One Is Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

“There are only four kinds of of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”
~ Rosalyn Carter

Rosalyn Carter’s words convey a truth that many of us rarely think about until ourself, or someone we care about, needs help. If more of us considered her words more often, it might cultivate increased compassion for all who need assistance.

Yet, when illness, and the need for caregiving enters our personal space it does more than stir our compassion. It can also feel frightening, limiting, isolating, and unfair. People experience anger, hope, sadness, and love as familiar relationship roles adjust to new realities.

Those Pesky Emotions

Experiencing this stew of feelings is normal when a loved one is diagnosed with an illness such as diabetes, and requires our support. The first “job” of the caregiver, then, is to be patient, allowing time for all the feelings to be felt, and sort themselves out.

Feelings do not necessarily represent objective facts, but they faithfully represent the way events are rubbing against the internal reality of our perceptions and beliefs. When we honor these feelings by allowing and acknowledging them, they give us important messages that can inform our actions.

For instance, emotions might say, “I’m sad about the loss of health, grieve our mortality, and I’m angry diabetes has intruded its demands on my (our) life.” However, this emotional energy can eventually be channeled into managing the illness and restoring health as much as possible—which is what the feelings are crying out for.

During these emotional early stages of adjusting to diabetes, it may help caregivers to learn about the illness since action and understanding can relieve anxiety, and to remember that showing care is often a matter of small, simple gestures.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around,” wrote author and lecturer, Leo Buscaglia.

Avoiding Assumptions

As emotions settle, and diabetes management strategies are put into place, it may seem apparent what the person with diabetes needs by way of assistance. Yet, appearances are sometimes deceiving. It is important to never assume that our idea of helping is what other requires or desires.

Many people in relationships assume that if two people love each other they will automatically know what the other wants or needs, but this is frequently not the case. People often offer what they would expect to receive, and expect to receive what they would naturally give.

That is why, whenever possible, the specifics of giving and receiving diabetes support should be communicated and negotiated. Otherwise, people end up feeling either trampled on, or put upon, and resentments build. Caregivers must be particularly careful to protect their well-being by stating exactly what they are able and willing to do, or not do. This is called setting personal boundaries.

“Many of us follow the commandment ‘Love One Another.’ When it relates to caregiving, we must love one another with boundaries. We must acknowledge that we are included in the ‘Love One Another,’” wrote Peggi Speers, author of The Inspired Caregiver.

By communicating needs and respecting personal boundaries, a caregiver and care receiver can manage diabetes together without letting its demands disturb the integrity of their relationship.

Inspired by: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: Leo Grubler

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