Mayo Clinic Minute: 5 steps to diabetic foot care
How to Take Care of a Diabetic Patient
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the pancreas either makes not enough insulin or not enough insulin at all. This makes it difficult for the body to regulate the person's blood sugar. If you are caring for someone with diabetes you can help them by offering support, making lifestyle changes together, and helping them manage their medications.
Making Lifestyle Changes Together
Provide emotional support.If a loved one has just received a diagnosis of diabetes, they are probably feeling upset and overwhelmed. You can provide emotional support and help them learn to manage their diabetes by:
- Listening. Your loved one may be worried about how the diagnosis may change their life. If your loved one is ready to talk about concerns and fears, listen and when they are ready, help make a plan for how to deal with the issues. Provide reassurance that diabetes is fully manageable and will not prevent them from living a long and full life.
- Educating yourself about the condition. This may involve reading books and pamphlets about the disorder. You can also find information online at the American Diabetes Association. Your doctor may even be able to suggest a diabetes education course for you and your loved one. The more educated you are, the better you will be able to anticipate what help might be needed.
- Offering help when you see something that you can do. Even small things like providing a ride to a doctor’s appointment may mean a lot.
Make dietary changes together.Your loved one may be told eat a healthier diet. You can both change your eating habits together. This will reduce the amount of unhealthy food you have in the house and lessen feelings of isolation. Eating healthier will also benefit you. Search online for diabetes-friendly recipes and cook them together.
- A diet that will help your loved one manage blood sugar levels will include lots of vegetables and fruits. These are low in fat and calories and high in fiber and vitamins. This means they are excellent for helping people to get the nutrients they need while losing weight. Offer your loved one vegetables as snacks between meals to manage hunger. A crunchy carrot or green pepper can be a delicious, refreshing snack.
- Eat whole grains. Whole grain breads, pasta, and brown rice are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. This means that they take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates such as refined sugar, cookies, cakes, white rice, and breads and pasta made from white flour. Simple carbohydrates are more likely to cause the blood sugar to spike and then crash.
- Increase the amount of fish you eat. Fish are generally lower in fat than red meat and poultry. Healthy sources of fish include mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna and bluefish. When you eat fatty meats, trim off the fat and remove the skin. The skin generally contains a layer of fat underneath it.
- Eat moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados, pecans, walnuts, almonds, olives, canola, olive and peanut oils. Avoid saturated fats like butter, lard, bacon and sausage. You should also avoid foods with trans fats. These are often found in commercially prepared baked goods, shortening, and margarines.
Start an exercise plan together.Exercising is more fun if you have a partner to do it with and it is a great way to control blood sugar, lose weight, and reduce stress. Both you and your loved one should check with your doctors before starting any new exercise program to make sure that you are healthy enough for it. If your doctors approve, try to do:
- A half hour of aerobic exercise five days per week. Chose an activity the you and your loved one enjoy like going for walks, dancing, jogging, swimming, or biking.
- Resistance training twice per week. These activities will increase your and your loved one’s strength and help control blood sugar levels. Possible activities include yoga and weightlifting.
Help your loved one manage stress.Stress can alter how the body responds to insulin. This means that it is important for your loved one to learn to manage stress. Excellent ways to do this include:
Helping Your Loved One Manage Diabetes
Recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar.Low blood sugar can occur if a diabetic eats too little or takes too much insulin. As a care-giver, it is important for you to recognize the symptoms so you can help your loved correct low blood sugar by eating a snack or drinking juice. Symptoms include:
- Bad mood
- Altered behavior
Identify the symptoms of high blood sugar.High blood sugar can occur when a diabetic eats more than usual, forgets to take insulin, or is sick. If you recognize the symptoms you can help your loved one make adjustments to insulin treatments as necessary. Symptoms include:
- Blurry vision
- Dry mouth
- More frequent urination
- A yeast infection
Work with your loved one’s doctors.Your loved one may need a team of different doctors to get control of the condition. This may include the physician, a nutritionist, and a counselor or support group to help the person cope with the diagnosis. You can advocate for your loved one by:
- Offering to accompany them to appointments
- Listening to the doctor and taking notes so that you both will have a record of what the doctor said
- Asking questions if anything is unclear. Sometimes patients are so overwhelmed that they forget to ask questions or are too nervous to do so. Try helping your loved one make a list of questions they'd like to ask prior to the appointment. This will help you have a focused, productive appointment and you won't forget to ask any of your questions.
- Providing the doctor with additional information when necessary. Patients often forget to provide information when they are nervous. Your loved one may also not provide information about whether they have been able to completely follow a diet or exercise plan.
- Making sure the doctor explains things at a level your loved one can understand. This is particularly important if the patient is a child or elderly. The better they understand the instructions and the reasons for them, the easier it will be to follow them.
- Talk to your loved one about scheduling additional appointments that might be necessary to check for complications, such as a yearly physical exam, eye exams, and an appointment to get vaccines. Diabetes can lower your immune system so the doctor may recommend a flu shot, pneumonia vaccine, and a hepatitis B vaccine.
Learn to give insulin injections if necessary.If you are caring for a child or someone who is elderly, it may be necessary for you to give insulin injections and do finger-prick tests. You can learn to do through:
- Information and training provided by your loved one’s doctors
- Diabetes courses. You can search for courses online at the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes UK, or other national diabetes organizations.
Take care of yourself as a care-giver.Being a care-giver can be frustrating, exhausting, and stressful. It is important to remember to take care of yourself as well. This is critical both for your own health and well-being, and so that you can continue to be an effective care-giver. Ways to get support yourself include:
- Joining a care-givers’ support group. You can search online or ask your doctor for recommendations of groups near you.
- Talking to friends and family
- Seeing a counselor
- Maintaining your hobbies so that you get a mental break from your care-giving responsibilities
QuestionWhat effect does alcohol have on a diabetic patient?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt affects their blood sugar. It makes sugar levels higher because of how it affects the liver.Thanks!
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