Three quarters of carers for people with diabetes experience emotional or mental health problems
Research from Diabetes UK 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 per cent) of respondents said that they sometimes or often feel down because of their family member’s diabetes.
One-third of carers also wanted their family member to see more of a diabetes specialist nurse (DSN), while 11 per cent wanted a trained counsellor or psychologist to support the children or adults with diabetes they care for.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) said that if they could change one thing about the healthcare their families receive for diabetes it would be to receive more information and support to manage the condition day-to-day.
The factors impacting on parents’ and carers’ emotional wellbeing are numerous and complex. In further insight work, carers of children with Type 1 diabetes, for example, told Diabetes UK it was challenging when people around them did not understand the realities of their child’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, as well as support from more experienced peers.
These findings illustrate the wide-reaching impact a diagnosis of diabetes has not only on the person living with the condition but those who care about and for them. Earlier research published by Diabetes UK showed that three in five people with diabetes experience emotional problems or mental health issues because of their condition, with 18.6 per cent using support or counselling from a trained professional to help them manage.
The theme for this World Diabetes Day on 14 November is family, and Diabetes UK is taking the opportunity to highlight the impact that the condition can have not just on those living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, but also on their families. The charity is promoting the range of support it makes available to those living with the condition, and those who support someone who does.
There are 3.7 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK − about 90 per cent are estimated to have Type 2 and 10 per cent have Type 1.
Dan Howarth is Head of Care at Diabetes UK. He said:
“Diabetes doesn’t just affect the person living with the condition; the impact is felt by everyone around them. A diagnosis will change the lives not only of the person diagnosed, but also their friends, loved ones and those that provide them with care.
“Caring for a child or adult with diabetes can sometimes be hard, and access to specialist information and support for both those with diabetes and their families are instrumental in safely managing the condition.
“But with the right support and access to information, families and carers can help people with diabetes avoid devastating complications, such as amputations, blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.”
Diabetes UK offers a range of support for people living with diabetes and their families, from family support groups, and the online forum, to education digital platform Learning Zone, and the helpline − go to www.diabetes.org.uk to find out more.
Dee Coker, 45, from Ferndale in Rhondda. Her husband Paul, 45, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was five.
“I’ve known my husband Paul since I was 17 so I knew from the beginning that we would spend the rest of our lives managing his diabetes together.
“Back then we were told that Paul would not live for very long and he would probably never have children. We accepted that then but look at us now – we have two lovely daughters and Paul ran 40 half marathons in 15 months last year!
“We have a lot of good days and we all work together as a family to help Paul, but it is still something we are aware of every day and it can be overwhelming. Even if only one person has been diagnosed with diabetes the whole family lives with it.
“Aside from constantly picking up used blood test strips from the floor, living with diabetes can be exhausting. Paul wears a Continuous Glucose Monitor which alerts him when his blood glucose levels are too high or too low. The alarm goes off at all times during the night, so the lack of sleep you get is sometimes like having new-born babies. It’s great for long-term care but I can often feel like I’m sleepwalking through the day.
“It can often be hard to know if Paul is in a bad mood because he’s tired, grumpy, or if something is going on with his diabetes. And when the girls were little we had to find ways of making sure he had what he needed without making them upset because Daddy was unwell. We would have to constantly reassure the children that Paul was going to be OK but it’s difficult to put on a brave face when you’re worried yourself.
“We manage day-to-day but it can be hard to think about the future, especially now that Paul’s sight is deteriorating. I often feel like a spare part when I take Paul to appointments or support groups. I wish there was more information and support for the partners of people living with diabetes. It would be great to have a place to discuss these issues and remember that I’m not alone.”