Diabetes: A Family Matter

Diabetes Self-Management

Family Involvement

Family Risks for Diabetes:

  • Family member with diabetes
  • Having diabetes in the family over several generations
  • Overweight or obese
  • Having a large waist size
  • Not getting much physical activity
  • History of diabetes when pregnant
  • Being African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American
  • Being Caucasian and living in Appalachia

Diabetes is a disease that impacts all family members. As we address diabetes, we need to pay more attention to family needs. Most doctors and nurses focus on the individual with diabetes! When a person is told that they have type 2 diabetes, they are told about the care needed. This includes things like medicine, diet or lifestyle changes, and the time for another doctor visit. They may be told about some other things also. They are often asked to check blood glucose level daily with a glucometer. This is a small machine that measures blood glucose levels. Some people are given brochures or pamphlets to take and read. Others are instructed to return for a diabetes education class. However, in most cases, family members are not included in these steps.

When a child has type 1 diabetes, parents and other caregivers are included in the disease education. However, when persons have type 2 diabetes family members are far less likely to be included in the education. While family members can be an important part of diabetes prevention and assist with care management, very little attention has been given to these things. Health care providers do care about family, but most health care services are not created to include family members. Most doctors and nurses have a limited amount of time to spend with each person. They are often only able to give the most basic facts in that time period. While they might want to spend more time answering questions, their busy schedules does not let this happen.

So, those with diabetes may learn some facts about their disease, but they may not always tell others in their family what the doctor said. Families do things in different ways. Some may give more support or better care. Some may get more involved. Others just think it is not their disease. For example, families that are less organized or have many other problems may not focus on diabetes care as needed. If this happens, persons with diabetes may be at great risks for other bad problems. Some of these problems could be life-threatening and decrease the quality of life. The truth is diabetes is a family matter! Better ways to address diabetes in families are needed.

Changing Family Dietary Routines:

  • Food that is good for people with diabetes is also good for the whole family!
  • You can fit some foods that contain sugar into your daily intake; you do not have to give up all of your favorite foods!
  • You can eat a many kinds of foods, eat a variety and use different foods in meal.
  • Planning, and quit worrying so much about foods you cannot eat.
  • Special foods for diet or diabetes are not needed.
  • Standardized diets are a thing of the past.
  • Special vitamins and minerals are not needed.
  • Moderate weight loss can improve your blood sugar.
  • Favorite recipes can be altered to decrease fat, carbohydrate, sodium, and calories.

...And, Where You Live Counts!

  • Neighborhoods can be more conducive to healthy eating and exercise.
  • Find ways to make your neighborhood exercise-friendly (e.g., safe, walkable streets, parks, etc.).
  • Encourage neighborhood markets to sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods.
  • Exercise does not have to involve a gym, high costs, or spandex.
  • Work with other to find ways to improve your neighborhood’s ability to support the health of the people that live there.

Old Ways of Diabetes Care

Manage Your Diabetes

  • Eat healthy
  • Stay physically active
  • Monitor your blood glucose level
  • Take your medications if prescribed
  • Monitor your eyes and vision, skin, and feet
  • Set healthy goals
  • Get assistance with answering questions and solving problems

A problem often found by those that care for persons with type 2 diabetes is that some people still hold old ways of thinking about the disease. They may recall an older family member and remember how they took care of their diabetes. Others have heard stories about sugar diabetes from in their family and think that nothing can be done to make things better. As a result, too many people just give up and do not try very hard to do what is needed.

Diabetes care has changed! Research has helped us learn many new facts about diabetes prevention and care. New medicines have been developed and are working better than ever. Ideas about diet and activity have also changed. As you learn about these new ways of care, you can spread the word where you live. You can play an important role in helping your family members and people in your community learn the facts about diabetes care.

Taking Care of Diabetes
Regular Exams and Tests When to Get Them
Blood pressure Every doctor’s visit
Weight Every doctor’s visit
Foot exam Every doctor’s visit
Blood glucose record Discuss every doctor’s visit
Dentist check-up Two times a year/every six months
Hemoglobin A1C Blood Test Four times a year if blood sugar not controlled, or two times a year if controlled
Blood tests for cholesterol, HDL, LDL, & Triglycerides Once a year or way your doctor orders
Dilated eye exam Every year

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