Have a Parent with Type 2 Diabetes? Here's How to Set Them Up for Success

Diabetes Care|Jan.03, 2019


When you were a child, you looked to your parents to take care of your needs. But the years have passed and you grew up, and now the roles have reversed. It's time for you to take care of your parents. And if your elderly parent has recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or is at risk of developing the disease, providing that care becomes a partnership.

Glucose tolerance deteriorates with age, and the prevalence of elderly Indians with diabetes has risen since 2002. Helping your elderly parent manage their diabetes can be tricky. Ingrained habits and patterns are hard to break, and limits to physical activity and exercise pose great challenges. But those challenges aren't outweighed by the great risk of complications if your parent's diabetes goes unchecked.

Taking a thoughtful approach to these sensitive discussions can make the difference. Remember that this is a team effort, not something you need to oversee or control. Even though you're no longer a child, your parent is still an adult. Here's how you can help them create systems and an environment that helps manage their condition while respecting their independence.

Be Understanding

Telling your parent what to do — instead of the other way around — can set the stage for conflict. Your parent may not be ready to listen, and they might not be welcome to change. It's important to be patient during this transition. Understand that this is an adjustment that will take time.

There's a lot about diabetes and nutrition that they might not know. Don't just impose a regimen. Help them understand what's good for them — such as a diet high in fiber and protein — empower them to make better decisions.

Advice from an expert — such as a doctor, dietician or diabetes nutrition educator — may carry more weight. So make a visit to one, then reinforce the information and recommendations your parent learned during the visit.

Make a Plan — Together

Managing type 2 diabetes means making lifestyle changes, taking medications and checking blood sugar — all of which require good planning. Come up with a plan that works best for your parent, whether it's writing their medication schedule on a calendar or setting alarm reminders on their smartphone, then help them get it in place. All this planning can be overwhelming; taking on some of the responsibility can help set your parent up for success.

Remember, uncontrolled diabetes increases your parent's risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, so helping your parent find a plan they can stick with will have positive reverberations on their overall health.

Help Them Set Small Goals

Making big changes to a routine can be overwhelming. Smaller goals can help keep your parent motivated. Don't just suggest a complete lifestyle overhaul. Help your parent make incremental changes that put them on the road to better health. Encourage your parent to eat three healthy meals a day, or to take daily walks after lunch. If they have a smartphone, download a medication-tracking app to help them stay on schedule. Remind your parent that cardiovascular exercise and blood sugar go hand-in-hand.

Explain How to Recognise Symptoms

Talk to your parent about how to recognize when their blood sugar is too high or low. You should also talk to them about how to treat blood sugar issues when they arise. In these cases, it's helpful to refer back to what their doctor told them about diabetes nutrition.

Be sure to talk about their nutrition plan, too. Malnutrition increases the mortality risk of type 2 diabetes by 70 percent increase. A journal or an app can help them stay on top of their calorie intake and blood sugar.

Offer to Do it with Them

Let your parent know they're not alone in this. Offer to change some of your own routines to help them get through theirs.

For example, your parent may feel less alone if you both follow the same eating plan, even if it's only when you're sharing meals. Eating a healthy meal is easier with a partner, and this way your parent won't be tempted to make unhealthy choices because they're staring at food they shouldn't eat.

Support them in other healthy behaviours, too. For instance, go for a walk together to encourage your parent to adopt more active lifestyle.

Keep Things in Perspective

Your parent will have good days and bad days. Don't let one bad day derail your parent's new healthy lifestyle — encourage them to approach the next day as a new start. Remind them that there are always new opportunities for smart choices. Even the most stubborn people are capable of change, and your parent is no exception to that.

Remember to make time for yourself. Caregiver burnout is real, and the best way to take care of your parent is to take care of yourself, too.

Helping your elderly parent manager their diabetes is a partnership, but you don't have to be the only other partner. Your doctor can be an invaluable resource; they can provide you with the information and guidance you need, and they can point you in the direction of support groups and communities that can help you navigate this tricky time. The more you can help your parent learn about type 2 diabetes, the better the two of you can work together to manage it. Treat their diagnosis as something you'll go through together, because when you walk the talk, you can help your parent live a longer, healthier life.


Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.