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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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This World Diabetes Day we are raising awareness of how diabetes affects the whole family

77% of people who care for someone with the condition experience emotional or mental health problems.

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The theme for this World Diabetes Day is ‘family’ and we are looking at the emotional impact that diabetes can have not just on those living with Type 1 or Type 2, but also on their families.

Research from from us has found that – alongside those living with the condition – parents and carers of children and adults with diabetes experience emotional or mental health problems.

The online survey showed that more than three quarters (77%) of those who answered said that they sometimes or often feel down because of their family member’s diabetes.

Putting on a brave face

There are many things that impact parents’ and carers’ emotional wellbeing. Many people find it challenging when people around them do not understand the realities of their family member’s condition, and said that emotional support would reduce the strain on them to ‘appear strong’ at all times.

Conversely, carers of older people with Type 2 have said that having the opportunity to be themselves, not just a carer, was important for their well-being.

“Leaving our old lives behind”

Helen Jones, 46, is a teaching assistant from Port Talbot. Her son Oliver, 12, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2013 and her daughter Isabella, 9, was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2017.

Helen said: “I will never forget the day Oliver was diagnosed. He was seven years old and had lost weight, was drinking water excessively and going to the toilet a lot. I took him to the doctor and he was immediately diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and sent to hospital. My husband and I were devastated. It felt like we were leaving our old lives behind us.

“I have always been the strong one, in charge, wanting things to be perfect but diabetes doesn’t work like that. I used to sit downstairs at night and cry for hours, hiding it from everyone around me. My family and friends could see that I was falling apart so I sought help from my doctor, who helped me to cope.

“The responsibility is huge”

Helen continued: “In June 2017 when our youngest, Isabella, was recovering from chicken pox I noticed that she was drinking lots of water. I took her to the doctor who immediately sent us to hospital. They told me I had caught it early which was a huge relief, but I still struggled to accept that both of my children have Type 1 diabetes and my mental health deteriorated and I had to take time off work.

“Things are better now but there is still so much that people don’t understand about our lives. The responsibility is huge, too much or too little insulin can be deadly. Sometimes I feel that nobody understands the fear I have every morning of finding either child unconscious or worse. That fear will never leave me.

“That’s why support networks are so important. I have created my own support network. Through mutual friends I met two other mums of Type 1 children, and I set up a local Facebook group, Type-1-derful. We have lots of members and organise lots of activities. It’s nice to connect with people who have walked in your shoes and can understand.”

Find out more about World Diabetes Day here.

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