The Sweet Life

No carbs for you! No second helpings! You know you can’t have that!


Sound familiar? Women all over Australia who care for a spouse, child or elderly parent with diabetes often find themselves in the difficult position of having to cajole a reluctant diabetic to follow their treatment plan.

When dealing with an adult diabetic, it’s incredibly hard to know where to draw the line between being supportive and letting your loved one take responsibility for managing their diabetes. The newly diagnosed diabetic might be in denial or feel angry and scared about the impact diabetes will have on their life. While most people would say it’s their life; this is especially hard when it feels like it’s your life too, and your kids, and the whole family is ‘living with diabetes’ on a day-to-day basis. You may, however, find you have an unexpected ally in your local community pharmacist. With a third of women between the ages of 25-54, who are caring for someone, visiting a pharmacy at least fortnightly[1], your community pharmacy is an easily accessible source of advice and support.

Problem #1: Never had to watch what they ate before

Caring for someone who has always eaten what they like and is now being advised to change their diet can be a real challenge. The grocery store can become a battleground where your loved one loads the trolley with the unhealthy treats they’ve always eaten; and you feel like the food police because you veto their choices. Having a neutral third party who can educate your loved one about diabetic-friendly foods can help diffuse this situation. The next time you are in your local pharmacy, ask about the services they provide for diabetes management. Your pharmacist can provide advice on how your loved one can lose weight safely, set realistic weight loss goals, and they can provide extra support if needed.

Problem #2: Explaining away everything as old age

Diabetes is serious and untreated diabetes can lead to a number of complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, depression, anxiety, blindness and limb amputation. Your loved one might have been feeling unwell for some time, but chalked it up to getting older. It’s important for them to have regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks, which can be done by your community pharmacist. You can also ask your pharmacist if your loved one is eligible for a diabetes MedsCheck, which is an in-pharmacy medicines review. During a MedsCheck, your pharmacist will have an individual consultation on how to use the blood sugar monitor and get the best out of the diabetes medicines. They can also discuss side effects and over-the-counter medicines that might interact with their diabetic medication.

Problem #3: Deferring to you as the ‘font of all knowledge’

When your parent or partner is first diagnosed as diabetic, it can leave them feeling overwhelmed and worried about the possible complications. You may find that they take a ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach initially, leaving you to learn as much as you can about diabetes in order to support them. While diabetes requires daily management, they need to be reassured that it doesn’t have to take over their life. Encourage your parent or partner to ask questions and equip themselves with as much information as possible. Your community pharmacy offers much more than just medication supply: it is an easily accessible community health hub that can equip you with what you need to manage diabetes. Visit https://www.findapharmacy.com.au/ to find a community pharmacy near you that offers diabetes services.

Some initial questions to ask your pharmacist include:

*  How does my diabetes affect other medication I am taking?
*  Are there any medications that I can’t take?
*  How can you help me to remember to take my medication?
*  When should I take my diabetes medication?
*  Can I take supplements with my diabetes medication?
*  Should my diabetes medication be taken with meals or on an empty stomach?
*  How do I store my diabetes medication?
*  Can I consume alcohol with my diabetes medication?
*  If I am sick, do I need to take my diabetes medication differently?
*  How often should I test my blood glucose levels?
*  What do I need to test my blood glucose levels?
*  How do I use the blood glucose meter?
*  How do I ensure the results are accurate?
*  Where can I get testing strips and needles for my blood glucose monitor?
*  How do I care for the strips?
*  What is the National Diabetes Service Scheme and what does it mean for me?


Problem #4: No one likes to be told ‘it’s for your own good’

No one likes to be told ‘no’ or that "it's for your own good", so you may have to pick your battles when it comes to food choices. However, you can stress to your loved one that there is a team of people there to support them, from health professionals like their doctor and pharmacist, to family and friends.

Diabetes affects the entire family, not just the person diagnosed, so make sure you look after yourself as well. Having a supportive network that can provide advice and practical help when you need it is a very important part of living well with diabetes. Let your pharmacist know if you’re caring for someone, because they’re here to help you too.