Motivating a Loved One With Type 2 Diabetes
Keeping someone focused on type 2 diabetes care can be challenging, but there are ways to keep them on track.
By Marijke Vroomen-Durning, RN
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Living with a condition that requires constant monitoring, like type 2 diabetes, can be overwhelming, and denial is a common response for people newly diagnosed with diabetes. It is a lot easier to pretend nothing is wrong than it is to take the steps required to stay healthy. But family members can play an important role in helping their loved one with type 2 diabetes take the steps they need to control their diabetes — and studies have shown that the support of family leads to better choices and better health.
Type 2 Diabetes: Role of Family
The lifestyle modifications required of type 2 diabetics can be overwhelming and frustrating at first. Eating meals may no longer be as easy or as enjoyable as it once was, and the need for regular exercise can leave many people with diabetes who are used to their sedentary lifestyle angry.
Phoebe James (not her real name), a registered nurse in Baltimore who has had type 2 diabetes for a few years, says it’s her family that motivates her to keep up her diabetic lifestyle. It isn’t just about me, says James. “I look at my three little girls. That’s why I take care of myself and do what I have to do. I want to be here forever to watch them grow up and make my husband and me grandparents one day,” she says.
Tiffany Hester, of Colorado, cared for her 90-year-old grandmother who had type 2 diabetes. She says it’s “okay to encourage someone to make the right choices, but they have to want it.”
She points to her father-in-law, who has borderline diabetes and whom she is now helping. “My father-in-law wants to [make the necessary changes to stay healthy] and is being very successful with it,” Hester says. In her grandmother's case, “We would verbally remind her about her eating habits, but we couldn’t take that quality-of-life decision away from her.”
Kathy Honick, RN, CDE, a diabetes educator at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, says, “As with other chronic diseases, there’s a period of time in which the diabetes patient moves out of a level of denial to a level of acceptance of the disease.” But it’s important for caregivers to realize that a decrease in motivation can happen at any time.
Type 2 Diabetes: Encouraging Activity
For some people, activity is a given: They’d be active even if they weren’t living with type 2 diabetes. James says, “Physical activity has always been important and necessary for me, and that hasn’t changed.” But what do you do, as a caregiver, if your loved one with type 2 diabetes lacks self-motivation to exercise? Here are some tips to help get your loved one moving:
- Use a pedometer.A study done in 2007 showed that among a group of diabetics, those who used pedometers to measure distance walked met their exercise goals and often exceeded them.
- Try group activities.Some people respond better to group exercise than exercising alone. Encourage your loved one to take exercise classes or offer to exercise with your loved one.
Living life with type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean your loved one’s life has to be turned upside down. But, it may be necessary for you to help provide guidance during the adjustment periods.
Since there is currently no cure for diabetes and diabetes self-management is a lifelong commitment to lifestyle change, the support and encouragement by family members will help your loved one with type 2 diabetes stay healthy, says Honick.
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