Carers and Diabetes

Carers and Diabetes

We are well aware that for many people the effects of living with diabetes do not seem to put a strain on relationships but we are also aware that for others it does, either sometimes or all the time. Just as diabetes is different in everyone, so is the day to day living with it – we all have different ways of coping with it. Many people with diabetes would not consider themselves in need of a ‘carer’ and see themselves as totally independent, but that may not be how their partner sees the situation.

Quote from a carer: “Independence is fine, but who picks up the pieces when they have a bad hypo? Who wakes up in the morning with only a bad headache, knowing nothing about the 3.00am battle with food – certainly not me!”

Partners can feel:

  • Excluded from their partner’s diabetes even though this exclusion may be quite unintentional on the part of the partner who may be unaware of how their partner feels. They may also feel that their knowledge of diabetes is very limited because they have not been included by their partner or included in the education sessions at the diabetes clinic.
  • They may feel frightened both on a day to day basis and for the future health of their partner. They may feel alone with their worries and fears with no one to talk to about their own feelings. Talking to an ‘outsider’, even a friend, can make them feel guilty and disloyal to their partner.
  • They may feel angry. Diabetes has altered everything and the life they expected may no longer seem possible which in turn, can lead to feelings of guilt and selfishness.
  • They may feel that diabetes and the welfare of their partner is a huge responsibility for them and feel unable to cope with this responsibility that has suddenly been thrust upon them. 
  • They cannot talk to their partner about their concerns because they do not want to upset them.

While people with diabetes live healthy and independent lives, we have to remember they get older just like everyone else. Unfortunately they may also get the complications of diabetes and so the partner can be placed in the role of caring for 24 hours a day with little or no help and support. This can be stressful and tiring!

These studies are not recent but demonstrate the type of feelings that carers may have. If you are a carer and you feel any or all of these things, then don’t worry you are just like the rest of us.

The impact of severe hypoglycaemic episodes in patients with IDDM on spouses psycho social status and marital relationships.

Diab Care 1997; 20: 1543-1546

This study found that spouses of people with frequent severe hypos had more fear of hypos, more marital conflict about diabetes management and more sleep disturbance worrying about night hypos than did spouses whose partners with diabetes had not had recent severe hypoglycaemia.

Spouse’s worries concerning diabetic partner’s possible hypoglycaemia

Diab Med 1998; 619-622

In this study spouses of people who were treated in emergency for severe hypoglycaemia were interviewed and the results showed the following:

When the partner is late home, for nearly 1/5 of their spouses their first concern was the possibility of a severe hypo.

Severe hypoglycaemia was a source of concern for nearly 2/3 of the spouses.

For nearly 10% of the spouses the possibility of severe hypoglycaemia was ‘always’ a burden.