Most diabetics, with the exception of young children and the elderly, are capable of managing their own care.
Sometimes parents and professionals find themselves in the position of having to take care of diabetics - usually type 1 diabetes in the case of young children and often - but not always - type 2 diabetes in the elderly.
In the fight against diabetes, knowledge really is power, especially on the part of caregivers of diabetics. Knowledge of the condition is crucial, as is the ability to recognise symptoms of hyperglycaemia and the ability to manage the condition as a whole. Regular testing of blood sugar is also essential, especially if you are not sure whether someone is hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) or hyperglycaemic(high blood sugar). The blood glucose level would also determine medication, level of exercise and diet for the day.
Consult the doctor
If you are uncertain about anything, rather consult the doctor than make any decisions yourself that you might regret later. If anything untoward happens, rather err on the side of caution. Schedule regular doctor’s visits.
Know the symptoms of hyperglycaemia
Symptoms of high blood sugar are reasonably easy to recognise. These include rapid breathing, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, stomach pain and confusion. In emergencies, these could even include becoming comatose. Get the person to a hospital immediately as this could be potentially life-threatening condition.
Watch out for diabetic complications
This mostly applies to caregivers of elderly diabetics. Signs to look out for are skin infections, abrasions or ulcers, especially on the feet, any signs of bad circulation, such as complaints about pins and needles in the lower legs and feet, complaints about blurred vision, which could point to retinopathy and frequent urination, bladder infections or kidney pain, which signify potential damage to the kidneys.
Take time out
As in the case of all caregivers, it is important that caregivers should look after themselves in order to avoid burnout. Time out is important, as is exercise, and a healthy social life. One cannot constantly give without receiving.
Read the section on diabetic comas. All caregivers of diabetic patients should be able to recognise the signs of hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia. Diabetic comas can be fatal and all caregivers.
Read the labels
When choosing foodstuffs for diabetics, all caregivers should become hypervigilant with regards to the contents of especially prepackaged foods. Often hidden sugar and fat lurk in these foods. It is much better to prepare fresh food from scratch, as you can then know exactly what goes into it.
Don’t get into a power struggle
Whoever you are caring for must know that ultimately their condition is their own responsibility. This is obviously not true in the case of very young children. But in the elderly, you should not take full responsibility for the treatment. If you do, things could easily develop into a power struggle, where lack of compliance with medication or unwillingness to stick to the diet, becomes a weapon with which to get at you.
Contact the Diabetes South Africa and ask about support groups in your area. It is important that both you and the person for whom you are caring, have contact with others in the same situation. Never underestimate the value of other peoples’ support.
Have emergency supplies
You don’t want to run out of medication in the middle of the night or somewhere far away from home. It is a good idea always to have rather too much than too little. - (Health24, updated February 2010)