Diabetes: A Family Matter

Diabetes and Families

Type 1 Diabetes

testing blood sugar

Families are often included in the care of children and youth with type 1 diabetes and much research about many aspects of diabetes and self-management has been conducted.

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Type 2 Diabetes

keeping a log bookr

Few researchers have studied families when a member has type 2 diabetes. This is an area where much more work needs to be conducted. Diabetes educators generally support the ideas of inclusion of family members in diabetes education. However, the lack of curricular resources, limited reimbursement for such care, and lack of skills for working with family processes limits this care from being provided. More research in this area is needed.

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Living with Diabetes: A Photographic Journey

Click here to visit "Living with Diabetes: A Photographic Journey"

A series of photographs related to living with diabetes have been taken in southeast Ohio. Eight persons with diabetes and their families have taken part in this project. The photographs are intended to show some things about what it is like to cope with type 2 diabetes in daily life and express some of the burdens placed upon people’s lives. While physicians, dieticians, nurses, and other health care workers are important in the lives of persons with diabetes. This is a disease that is primarily experienced where people live, work, and play.

These photographs document a small part of the family experience of living with diabetes. Diabetes, sometimes called ‘sugar,’ is a disease that needs continual care 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Although people with diabetes go on vacation, they never take a vacation from trying to successfully managing their disease. The photos are reminders of the complex care that must be taken as people try to follow medical directions in daily life by monitoring blood glucose levels, watching what they eat, getting exercise, taking medications, and protecting their skin. When people do not manage their diabetes well, they are at increased risks for things like hypertension, heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, limb amputations, and even death.

As photos were taken, other family members were also incorporated into the pictures. While many people think of diabetes as an individual’s disease, it is a really a family matter! Everyone in the family becomes involved when a loved one has the disease. Family members want to support the individual with diabetes, but they do not always know how. Many families have members that do not get a chance to obtain education about diabetes care needs and sometimes even persons with diabetes lack the important knowledge needed for taking good care of themselves.

Larry Hamel-Lambert

Many thanks to Ohio University faculty member and photographer Larry Hamel-Lambert for his hard work as photographer with this project. Click to visit Larry Hamel-Lambert's site.

Literature Supporting the Importance of Family in Diabetes Care

  • A significant portion of diabetes management takes place in family or home settings (Fisher et al., 1998); therefore, many self-care behaviors perceived to be cared for by individuals with diabetes diagnoses are actually carried out by the patient-family team (Coyne & Smith, 1994; Fisher et al., 1998).
  • Family support has been associated with treatment adherence, illness adaptation, and blood sugar control in studies of individuals with diabetes (Cardenas et al., 1987; Garay Sevilla, et al., 1995; Primomo, Yates, & Woods, 1990)
  • A framework of effective disease management requires assigned roles as part of routine practices with different family members responsible for different aspects of care (Fiese, 2000).
  • When dietary routines of families with a member with diabetes were studied, findings indicated that gender influenced the kinds of family support offered and cultural food preferences, family traditions, and intergenerational dietary patterns influenced behavior changes (Denham, Manoogian, & Schuster, 2007).

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