You can support your spouse in many ways. Keep communicating so you understand what you can do to make the change to living with a chronic disease a little easier. Offer to attend appointments with the family doctor, diabetes clinic, pharmacist and other health care providers.
Take the journey of learning together. By learning as much as you can, you provide the support your partner needs. It helps to have both partners involved in the learning process, since there is so much new information to remember. Go together if you are attending a diabetes education centre. Most people remember less than half of what they learn in a classroom, and most information at a diabetes education centre is taught in a classroom setting.
You may need to make few or many lifestyle changes. Changing your meals, enjoying more physical activity, weight management and cutting back any stress can all improve health. Work on making changes together.
Nutrition changes usually just involve good healthy eating. You will learn more about cutting the amount of fat in your diet, choosing less processed foods, increasing fibre, adding more fruits and vegetables, and choosing healthy carbohydrates.
For most people whose diabetes is well controlled, having a drink containing alcohol is fine. A limit of two drinks per day for men, one for women, is suggested. The amount of carbohydrates in some alcoholic drinks should be monitored, since many can increase blood glucose levels. Even if a drink does not contain carbohydrate, it is still important to check blood glucose levels since they may fall. It is always best to have a small snack or appetizer along with alcohol.
Daily physical activity is an important part of managing diabetes. Why not make the daily activity a ‘date,’ something you do as a couple? Go for a walk, bike ride or hike together. Consider taking up a new sport or activity, such as yoga for couples, golfing or tennis lessons. People with type 2 diabetes who have a regular physical activity routine have a lower rate of long-term complications and better blood glucose control.
How much exercise is enough? The answer really depends on the intensity or difficulty of the exercise. Moderate-intensity exercises include brisk walking, biking, raking leaves, swimming, dancing and water aerobics. If such activities warm the person up and increase the breathing rate, 30 to 60 minutes a day is good. Exercise requiring less effort, such as walking, easy stretching or gardening may increase breathing rates only slightly. In this case, an hour a day is necessary.
Home blood glucose testing and lab tests form a large part of measuring how well the diabetes is being managed. A pharmacist or diabetes educator can provide a meter and teach how to use it. The educator and doctor will also explain the lab tests and how often they should be done.
|Two targets are outlined – the first being best control, and the second fair control.|
|Best Control||Fair Control|
|Before breakfast or before meals||4.0 - 6.0 mmol/L||4.0 - 7.0 mmol/L|
|Two hours after meals||5.0 - 8.0 mmol/L||5.0 - 10.0 mmol/L|
Apart from blood glucose measurements, tests include the following:
Learn what to do if your spouse gets sick. Illness places extra stress on the body and this can elevate blood glucose levels. Any illness may increase blood glucose levels. Mild illnesses generally have less effect, while a more serious illness can have more impact. Additional testing is recommended. In some cases, extra insulin may be required or oral medications may need adjusting.
As with any illness, it is important to drink enough fluid. With type 2 diabetes, this is especially important. If your spouse is able to eat, provide plenty of sugar-free drinks such as water, clear soup, tea, and sugar-free soft drinks. If eating solids is not possible, drinks that contain carbohydrate should be consumed every hour. If your spouse is sick for more than 24 hours, or blood glucose levels stay high, contact your family doctor.
Travel should not be difficult for you and your spouse. You will need to take special care if you are carrying diabetes supplies, such as a meter, medications and insulin needles. Your doctor can provide a note explaining your spouse’s treatment. All medications and equipment should be kept with you in carry-on baggage, along with an extra prescription in case supplies are lost. Always carry extra food such as snacks and sugar-free beverages. Plan ahead, since many airlines do not provide meals or have limited menus.
Worrying about the future is common for most people with diabetes and their families. Once a person has diabetes, developing problems or complications is more likely. Potential problems include heart attack, stroke, nerve and kidney damage as well as vision problems. However, the risk is less if blood glucose is controlled well.
Poor circulation and nerve damage from diabetes can cause sexual problems for many couples. Up to half of men experience problems with erections. Many women with diabetes suffer from yeast infections and dryness of the vagina. Discuss these issues with your doctor or diabetes educator. Many treatment options are available.
Work with your spouse. Provide support and a shoulder to lean on when challenges arise. Motivation and coaching can help your partner stay on track. Working together to make healthy lifestyle changes helps ensure a healthy, happy future for both of you.