Role Of Family Support In Diabetes Management
“Mama, I finally bought the diabetes socks! Please let me inspect your feet before you fit them
The Diabetes Nurse Educator had said it was important to periodically inspect mama’s feet for any sores, injuries, or infections and report to the clinic if any were found.
Being diabetic, she was at risk of loss of sensation in her feet (I think she called it neuro-something), which could lead to injuries that may not heal and ultimately result in a foot ulcer. I followed all the DNE and the doctor’s instructions to the letter because I now know how important they are.
My mum is 72 years old; she is very much set in her ways and can sometimes be difficult to convince on any health management initiative (she often says she doesn’t want to waste our money at her age).
She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 13 years ago. We didn’t think it was a big deal initially until something happened that caused a big scare.
We had all left our widowed mother in Enugu, in search of a better life in Lagos. The hustle of Lagos didn’t allow us to check on her regularly.
This, in addition to her attitude towards modern health management, almost cost us her right foot. She had a wound on her foot that was slow to heal, so she started dipping it into prayer water, thinking it would go away. This was when we didn’t have adequate knowledge on diabetes management.
Her Pastor told us about a diabetes management centre in Enugu, so we decided to take her during our visit in December.
The doctor and DNE were alarmed at her high HbA1C (average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months) and also had to quickly intervene to prevent her right foot from being amputated.
Armed with new information and knowing mama’s disposition to Oyibo medicine, we had to bring her to live with us, fortunately, the clinic has a branch in Lagos.
Consequently, we took turns going with Mama to the clinic for her consultations and her diabetes classes. We learned a lot from those classes.
My biggest takeaway was that I could also be at risk and had to check my blood sugar sometimes when I check my mum’s, eat healthily and exercise regularly.
The DNEs would always follow up weekly to ensure the treatment regimen was adhered to, as we all agreed to treatment goals. After the diabetes classes (sugar classes) I was assigned as mama’s “Sugar Police” (something to show that caregivers successfully completed the programme). After morning devotion, we would take a 30 minutes walk around the estate and another 15 minutes in the evening.
We were taught about the importance of exercise during one of the sugar classes at the clinic. She always looked forward to the walks because it was her only chance to harass me about still being single.
I also had to ensure she made self-testing a habit, stick to her meal plan and her medications, so she uses them even when I am not at home.
I wasn’t going back on the treatment goals we all set up and signed off at the clinic, especially seeing how her morale was boosted when she smashed last quarter’s goals. We were all proud of her and threw a reunion party for her and her friends in Lagos. We were shocked to see mama become a diabetes peer educator.
She is still on the journey to full blood glucose control. However, we realised mama was doing well because we decided to invest time to understand what she is going through and how we can help her on the journey in self-management.
Getting to this point for us was simple: Get the right education, know what the right meal is for her, understand what the medications do and how they work, and understand the value of physical exercise to her condition. The shocking part is that these lifestyle modifications apply to me as well.
It has really helped me to manage my own health better, as I sometimes take the same meals as my mum. As a result of this joint management, the bond between my mum and I is stronger and we quarrel less these days (discount our discussion on my singlehood).
I can really testify to the positive impact of family support in the management of diabetes, especially in older persons like my mother.
My brothers would often bring their children during weekends to join mama in her exercise routine (with dance recently included). The routines and protocols might get too much for them to follow through alone and they really need support.
We are now advocates of diabetes education and we have learnt that family support in managing diabetes is key.
Aside from the online learning and diabetes classes we attended, we joined a community, which has been helpful to dispel myths about diabetes, as well as enlightening us on creative ways to make managing diabetes more fun and less dreadful.