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When Someone in Your Family Has Diabetes

Authors: Lisa Golden, Diabetes Education Program Specialist, Texas Workforce Commission, Vocational Rehabilitation Program

Keywords: diabetes, genetics, self-care, healthy behavior, monitoring blood sugar, medication, reducing risk, wellness, problem-solving, physical activity, prevention, Texas Workforce Commission, TWC

Abstract: The author describes ways to manage and support family members who have diabetes, based on the seven self-care behaviors determined by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) to be effective for self-management of diabetes (the AADE7 Self-Care Behaviors®).

Seven Ways to Manage and Thrive

Diabetes is a family disease. There is a strong genetic component and once a family member is diagnosed, whether child or adult, it requires support in order to manage the disease. The self-care tasks that are asked of people with diabetes are the same efforts that are required for everyone in the family to be healthy. Let’s discuss some of these and what can be done to support our loved ones with diabetes.

  1. Healthy eating – There is no such thing as a diabetes diet. For anyone to be healthy, food choices should include carbohydrates, proteins and fats that contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Too little or too few calories or other nutrients will not allow your body to perform at its peak. It is a matter of finding the balance. You can help your family member by eating healthy with them. Try shopping at your local farmers market or even just in the produce aisle and getting inspired by the vegetables or the colorful fruits. Garden together. And if eating out is a weekly or more occurrence, find restaurants that have healthy options that are delicious. Every member of the family should be involved in planning meals, shopping and preparing foods.
  2. Being active – It has been wonderful seeing families getting together during COVID-19 for some fun. Take walks together. Go to the park. Ride your bikes. If you need to stay inside, dance. Do a workout video together. Have a pillow fight. Activity can go a long way in helping you manage diabetes. It has so many great benefits for all including improving your mood, helping you manage stress, and just becoming physically stronger. Being active is good for everyone, not just the person with diabetes. Make activity a family affair.
  3. Monitoring – For people with diabetes, the monitoring of blood sugar is important in order to understand how the pancreas is functioning and how it is impacted by foods, activity, medication, stress and other factors. Monitoring can help individuals be proactive in managing their health. Paying attention to health metrics such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other lab work can help identify potential issues. The earlier you intervene, the more likely you can avoid negative consequences to your health.
  4. Taking medication – The goal for every member of the family is to live long and healthy lives. Taking medication may be needed in order to be as healthy as possible. Work with your healthcare provider if you have concerns such as cost of the medication, negative side effects, or if you don’t feel that the medication is working. Be sure to discuss any vitamins, supplements, over the counter medications, or dietary choices in case they may interfere with the medications you are taking. Your pharmacist can also help you understand the medications you are taking and how to get the best results.
  5. Healthy Coping – Stress can have a strong effect on your health. We all have frustrations that impact our moods. COVID-19 has made us acutely aware of our activity levels, our sleeping patterns, and our support systems. What feelings come up when you think about your health? Diabetes is a chronic condition and it can be hard to manage. You may feel anger, shame, or depression, or you may feel hopeful, powerful and in control. Talk to friends and family about your feelings and your personal health goals. Tell them ways that they can help and things they may say or do that are not so helpful.
  6. Problem solving – No matter how well planned and organized you are, things happen. COVID-19 certainly made us change our ways and shift our priorities. Problem-solving is a skill. Many problems can be planned for ahead of time like sick days. Have a supply of items you might need when times are not typical. Other times, problems occur suddenly and must be managed. Do what you can to prepare for the unexpected.
  7. Reducing risk – This healthy behavior is about prevention. Not using tobacco products and moderating the use of alcohol are behaviors that can be within your control. Another action that can help you reduce risk includes seeing your health practitioners as advised. Annual checkups with your primary care practitioner are important, as are those with other professionals such as your dentist and eye doctor. Other professionals may also be able to provide services and resources such as a podiatrist, a registered dietician, a social worker, or your diabetes education provider.

Managing diabetes can be a complex process. Families working together towards a healthier lifestyle can make a big difference in the wellness of every member. Consider all the ways that you can partner together to enjoy healthy foods, activities and accomplish the self-care needed to live your best life.

If you or someone you know has a disability that affects daily living or makes it difficult to work, you may be eligible for services from Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services. To find an office near you, visit

www.twc.texas.gov/VRNearMe.

A man, a woman, a boy and a young girl in red boots hold hands as they walk together.

Family of 4 holding hands walking down a wet sidewalk.

Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels. Family Of Four Walking At The Street

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