Summary: Whether you’re a parent, sibling, child, partner or friend, you can play a significant role in support and management of Type 2 diabetes. How you act can make his/her journey easier or harder. However, in the event of caregiver burnout, always remember that to care for others, you must first take care for yourself.
Living with diabetes is a lot better with the support from those you care about. Whether it is your spouse, your child, or your friend who has diabetes, giving them the support they desire would greatly help in managing diabetes.
How to Support
How you act can make his or her journey easier or more difficult.
Being aware and educated about diabetes control is the first step to give them the support they need. It is helpful to put yourselves in their shoes, and help them to make changes in their lifestyle (and yours!) to better support them.
But sometimes, understanding is simply not enough. Even asking them about what actions you can take might backfire, making them feel more frustrated. What can you do then?
1. First, think of the problems that he or she might be facing:
Is it the presence of potato chips in the kitchen?
Or is it the lack of brown rice at home?
Do you think simply seeing you eat his/her favourite food leads him/her to crave for it as well?
Is it the hassle of the measuring his/her blood glucose 2h after meals?
Next, think of the action that you can take to help him/her lead a healthier life. By helping him/her, you are also making better changes to your lifestyle. What better way to live healthily than to live healthy together?
2. Communicate your support.
Whenever you want to remind him/her to take medications or blood glucose levels, try starting the conversation this way:
“Hey, I’ve something to share with you – I hope that you can hear me out until I have finished.”
“What can I do today to make it easier?”
Remember: Do not pester or nag at him/her. Show appreciation at every little step and action he/she takes to live a healthier lifestyle. When there are setbacks, reduce chiding and increase acceptance. Patience is key.
3. Set small goals together
Exercise together: Take walks in the weekend
Make healthy choices of food together: Include brown rice in your diet, practice the balanced plate concept of ¼ carbs, ¼ protein, and ½ plate of vegetables.
4. Take care of yourself
Be aware of the stress and exhaustion you may feel. Do not neglect your health and well-being
To help others, you must first help yourself. To give others the support they need, it is essential to first take care of yourself. The term “burnout” represents a constant state of stress, and exhaustion (both physical and mental). Burnout may occur because you may be trying to help someone who may not always want the help.
Recognise the signs of burnout
Snapping at others more often than usual
Unusual routines – doing things that are out-of-the-ordinary
Having poorer attention span
Loss of appetite
Feelings of helplessness
What do you do if you are experiencing burnout?
Try to get back to your usual routine. If you have stopped your usual run in the evening or coffee break at 4pm, include that back in your routine.
Spend time with other people. Getting out and being around people is one way to retain a sense of normalcy. Caring for your loved one with diabetes is important, but it is also important to keep other good friends close.
Share your thoughts with your confidante or a professional. Know that it is ok to voice out and seek support as well.
Write down the situations that make you feel stressed, annoyed, frustrated, and/or helpless. Take your time and do not rush through this process. Next, write down 1 way you can take to change the situation to reduce your stress, annoyance, frustration or helplessness. Making a list increases the clarity of your situation and action, essentially making you a better caregiver.
These suggestions are aimed to help you get back on track and rediscover your ability to manage stress.
Over-prioritising your role as a caregiver may be the main driver of your burnout. Whenever you experience signs of burnout, take a step back, re-evaluate, and try out the four steps above. It will help you gain a more balanced footing of your role as a caregiver and your role as an individual.