Being a caregiver for a person with diabetes is no small task. In addition to guiding your family member or friend toward healthy lifestyle habits, you will need to help the person measure blood sugar regularly, keep track of blood pressure and cholesterol levels and administer insulin.
But don't let the list overwhelm you. With a little bit of education, a regular schedule and a positive outlook, you and the person you are caring for can keep diabetes under control.
First, try to familiarize yourself with the terminology and typical goals involved in diabetes management. For instance, an A1C is a test that can show an individual's mean blood sugar levels from the previous two to three months. Other names for the test include hemoglobin A1C or glycosylated hemoglobin. Recommendations vary on the optimal results of this test, ranging from less than 6.5 percent to 7 percent. You should talk to the person's health care provider regarding what a target measurement.
There are also blood glucose tests that give more immediate results and can be taken before or during a meal. Those taken on an empty stomach are referred to as preprandial, while tests administered just after a person begins eating are called postprandial. Recommended targets for preprandial tests range from 70 to 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), while optimal readings for postprandial test tend to be lower than 140 mg/dL and no higher than 180 mg/dL.
Blood pressure and cholesterol testing should be done in a doctor's office, but you should be aware that people with diabetes are at an increased risk of hypertension and high cholesterol. As a result, it's a good idea to limit the person's salty and fatty foods and encourage regular physical activity to keep the cardiovascular system functioning well.
Insulin administration can be the most daunting task for some people with diabetes and their caregivers. While it's true that this often involves needles, it's a very simple procedure and there are increasing options for insulin delivery. Insulin is not always required with type 2 diabetes, which can sometimes be managed with a healthy diet and exercise, as long as the pancreas continues to make insulin. However, because diabetes is a progressive disease, most people eventually need medication to help their body better use insulin, and some eventually require insulin.
Talk with your health care provider about how to know when insulin is needed and the best way to give insulin.
It may be a good idea to keep a calendar tracking your loved one's blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol measurements, as well as the times of insulin injections. Once routines are established, you may find that diabetes management is easier than expected.