As anyone with diabetes in their family knows, the burden of living with this disease isn’t limited to just the person who has it. From overseeing a child’s insulin injections to worrying about a spouse’s blood glucose levels, family members of people with diabetes can be deeply and constantly affected — and the scope of this is made clear in a new study.
Published in the journal Diabetes Therapy, the study surveyed 4,300 family members of people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. This group included parents, spouses and partners from several different countries, each of whom completed a 47-item online questionnaire. Participants were also invited to give written statements in one section of the survey.
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The survey showed that 64% of family members felt worried or anxious about their family member experiencing hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), and 74% said they spent time helping their family member manage hypoglycemic events at the expense of other activities. This included family members of people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
But while 76% of respondents answered that they believed having conversations about avoiding or managing hypoglycemia would be helpful, only 34% said they actually had these conversations on a regular basis. They indicated many different reasons for this lack of communications, including not wanting to talk about it (43%), living too far from the family member (37%), and lack of confidence or knowledge (33%).
The researchers concluded that while hypoglycemia often poses a substantial burden to family members of people with diabetes, “conversations about hypoglycemia, facilitated by a health-care professional, may reduce this burden and hypoglycemia risk” — and more health-care providers could be having these conversations with family members at appointments.
Want to learn more about hypoglycemia? Read “Understanding Hypoglycemia,” “Exorcising the Specter of Overnight Hypoglycemia,” “Hypoglycemia — What Your Inner Circle Needs to Know” and “Take a Bite Out of Hypoglycemia.”
A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.