Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Living Alone and Living Well With Diabetes

by Carolyn Robertson, APRN, MSN, BC-ADM, CDE

Buying in bulk can make economical sense when you choose foods that won’t go bad quickly. Vegetables like beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, potatoes, and winter squash keep well for more than a week. Nonfat dry milk and dry buttermilk are an option for cooking, because they are shelf-stable for long periods of time. Buying bags of frozen fruits and vegetables allows you to remove the portion you want and store the rest in the freezer with no spoilage.

If you buy a larger amount of food, you also have the option of cooking several portions at one time and freezing the leftovers for a later date. This will give you a few easy stand-by meals that can be quickly reheated when you are too rushed or tired to cook. Breads, soups, and stews freeze well, for instance. Wrap individual portions in plastic wrap or bags, or put them in plastic food storage containers.

Buying individual portions may make more sense if you’re buying fruits, vegetables, and other foods that don’t last very long in the cupboard or refrigerator and don’t freeze well. Additionally, if you don’t like eating leftovers or don’t have the appliances necessary for long-term freezing and quick reheating, individual portions that can be finished off in one sitting without waste may make more sense.

Meals tend to be more enjoyable when eaten at a relaxed pace in a comfortable environment. If you get little pleasure from your meals alone, think about what would make them more enjoyable. Would a tablecloth help? Flowers or candles? How about putting on some music while you eat? A meal alone can be more than something to be rushed through.

Regular exercise is recommended for just about everyone with diabetes, and its effects are almost exclusively beneficial — as long as certain safety precautions are observed. Exercise can lead to hypoglycemia, which is why it’s a good idea to check your blood glucose level before, after, and sometimes during exercise. It’s also a good idea to have some glucose tablets or a small snack on hand while you exercise in case your blood glucose level gets low. Since hypoglycemia can occur even hours after you’ve finished exercising, particularly if your workout was long or vigorous, monitoring your blood glucose later in the day is important, too.

Whether you exercise alone or with other people, wear visible medical identification (such as a necklace or bracelet) when you exercise in case you have an emergency that prevents you from relaying information about your diabetes or other medical conditions. If you go for walks, go jogging, or go cycling alone, leave a note on your refrigerator saying where you went and what time you left. If you plan to go camping or take some other overnight trip, tell a friend about your plans so there is someone who knows where you are and when to expect you back.

Of course, living alone doesn’t mean you have to exercise alone. Many people enjoy exercise more with a partner or group, either in a class setting, on organized walks or hikes, or just informally. If you take an exercise class or work out at a gym or fitness center, you may want to tell your instructor or the gym manager that you have diabetes and that there’s a possibility you will experience hypoglycemia. Let that person know how you normally handle the situation.

Getting support
The stereotypical view of people who live alone is that they’re lonely and depressed. While some no doubt are, many are not. Some people are quite content to live alone. However, no matter which camp you fall in, it’s important to remember that sadness and loneliness are not the same as depression. Sadness is a feeling, while depression is a treatable illness. Some symptoms of depression include sadness or anxiety, feelings of emptiness, loss of interest in ordinary activities, decreased energy, fatigue, sleep problems (insomnia, oversleeping), eating problems (loss of appetite, overeating), difficulty concentrating or remembering, inappropriate feelings of guilt or worthlessness, irritability, recurring aches and pain, and thoughts of death or suicide. If these symptoms last for two weeks, seek help from your primary-care doctor or a mental health professional.

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