Diabetes affects the whole family, whether you’re a parent, sibling, child, grandchild, spouse or friend. This week on the blog, we’ll be featuring stories about loving and caring for someone with diabetes.
Location: Alexandria, Va.
In 1982, my grandfather, Joseph Troyan, Sr., was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 60 years old. As most of our family lived very close to him and were able to keep an eye on him, it affected all of us. Together, we learned to make new recipes and incorporate new foods that Grandpa could eat. For example, my aunt started using fructose in apple pie and then used raisins as a sugar substitute, and my sister made his new favorite, broccoli quiche. Eight years later, Grandpa passed away due to a heart attack.
My days as a diabetes caregiver were far from over, though. In September 2012 my role as a mother changed forever when my son, Richard, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age seven. I was shocked, confused and even relieved that it wasn’t something worse. At least I already had the experience of taking care of someone with diabetes.
There was so much more information I had to learn this time, though, and I was overwhelmed and scared I wouldn’t be able to care for my son. How was I supposed to “stick” him all the time when he hated needles? What if my care was less than adequate? What if I accidentally made him sick? I never let him see me cry. I had to be strong for him.
In the past five months, many things have changed. Richard has learned to do his own blood glucose testings and we are teaching him how to read nutrition labels and calculate carbohydrates according to serving size. These are great math lessons for our second grader.
We’ve learned to go out to dinner and ask for nutritional information. Leaving him with a babysitter has not yet happened, though. It’s difficult letting him go to a birthday party or play date without me! I constantly keep a bag stocked with small snacks, his blood glucose meter, insulin, glucagon and other supplies with us at all times.
The rest of the family is learning and contributing as well. My husband, Sean, remembers to grab the “diabetes bag” when we leave the house. Kathleen, 11, has learned how to give Richard his injections and how to use the glucagon in case of an emergency. Amanda, 6, is figuring out what food has carbohydrates and what is healthy. And Tessie, 3, wants to hold her brother’s hand when he gets his insulin shots.
The future scares me. Even as I let go and let others help care for him, I still believe I am his best caregiver and know that I am responsible for complying with the tools he needs to manage his diabetes. I look forward to watching my children grow into the wonderful adults I know they will be, and it is just as important for me to allow Richard to become independent in his diabetes care as well.
My advice for those facing this change in their life would be to seek out help from others who can help you with your questions. Whether it’s support from those who live near me or those I have only met online, they help me stay calm, let me know that my fears are justified and, most of all, assure me that everything is going to be okay.