Caring for a Loved One with Type 2 Diabetes: Barbara and Mark

Caring for a loved one with T2D: Barbara and Mark

Managing Type 2 diabetes (T2D) isn’t easy — and the challenges are likely shared by loved ones who care deeply about your health and well-being.

That’s why it’s important to us to broaden the circle of support to the caretakers who are on the same journey of helping manage T2D. 

To better understand her journey helping manage her husband Mark’s T2D, we recently spoke to Barbara, the wife of a Pendulum customer, 

What would you say are your main duties as a caretaker?

Mark is an independent person and I can't say that I change his mind that often. But I try to make recommendations to him, especially with regards to his diet.

Mark enjoys cooking and eating— they’re big pleasures for him. To be truthful, he doesn't stick as strictly to a healthy diet as he should. I tend to remind him that he has Type 2 diabetes and that this can lead to a lot of hardships for him if he doesn't adhere to a stricter diet.

I try not to bring things into the house that would be a temptation for him. We eat dessert only on special occasions, or—if we go out—we might share a dessert.

I also remind him to exercise. If he walks daily, his numbers are very good. If he doesn’t, the numbers will definitely go higher. 

But at the end of the day, he’s very independent, so it's hard for me to monitor everything for him all the time.

How have you educated yourself as a caretaker?

When Mark was diagnosed, I went with him to the doctor several times.

We took some classes together, including a nutrition class, so that we could understand the concept of Type 2 diabetes and what needs to be done. It was just a really good program that gave a very informative overall understanding of the disease: this is what you have, this is where you are in the progression of this disease, and this is what can happen long term if you don't take the necessary steps. Without this type of educational program, it would have been very easy to not fully understand the scope of the disease and think that you could manage it by yourself. 

In addition, Mark’s doctor has been a great partner for both of us in helping us manage the disease. He is very good about emailing Mark and reminding him to come in to do blood work, or to check different things to help monitor his situation.

His doctor is also very conscientious that it's important for Mark and me to stay mobile and be able to travel for extended periods, which we love to do. Mark is 72, and I'm 71, and we want to remain as active as we possibly can. So by monitoring how he's doing, his doctor helps us know when and if we can travel. 

What difficulties have you encountered as a caretaker?

It is difficult. As with any disease, when you take your medication you feel well, and then you tend to think, “Oh, well, I don't need this anymore.” And I have to remind Mark that he does need to continue taking it. That's why he feels so well.

It's frustrating to me and can be hard to stand by when he falls off the wagon sometimes and will eat foods that are not right for him. But he's an adult, and I can't mother him. What I can do is encourage him as his wife: “Don't do that. You need to take care of yourself. Look around you at people who are suffering from severe diabetes.” 

Thankfully, he doesn't need injections. He takes pills and can control his glucose levels. He’s been taking Pendulum Glucose Control, and his A1C dropped a half a percent. It’s amazing. It's more than amazing. I'm thrilled, and so is he.

What do you wish you knew when starting your journey as a caretaker?

We were lucky enough to have classes and resources provided to us by our healthcare provider regarding the disease and how to manage it, but I do wish that we had more conversations regarding the psychological aspects of the disease.

Diabetes is not just something that affects Mark, but it also affects me as well. It requires effort and attention from both of us. And it was hard for us, Mark especially, to grasp that in the beginning. I wish there was a class or a program that taught me ways to prepare for the mental aspects of the disease like his emotional resistance and sometimes belligerence towards me while I was trying to help him. We need to be able to talk about these types of issues proactively.

Any tips/advice for other caretakers of loved ones with T2D? 

I would say it’s never too early to start checking for diabetes. Everyone should be checking regularly and monitoring their glucose levels. It’s much easier to change your lifestyle when you’re younger. 

I think it’s also important to establish your relationship with your loved one or partner where they are invested in monitoring their well-being and glucose levels themselves. That way, you can focus on being part of their support system, rather than their disciplinarian.

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