What about spouses and partners of people with diabetes? We know they live and struggle with this disease, too. Here at the 'Mine we host a Partners' Series to give them a voice. And we're delighted today to host Bill Polonsky, famous of author of Diabetes Burnout, and head of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute (BDI), as he hones in on this still-much-underserved segment of the diabetes community — the unsung Type 3's:
For many years, my colleagues and I at the BDI have studied and written about the emotional issues that can accompany diabetes, especially in adults. But we don't talk enough about their spouses and partners. Diabetes, whether it is type 1 or type 2, can be tough on them as well!
We know that many spouses/partners express a sense of exhaustion or burnout as they attempt to cope with their own worries about their partner's hypoglycemia, not knowing what to do about their loved ones' erratic moods (which may or may not be glucose—related), fear of long-term complications, battles with their partner over blood glucose monitoring and other self-care behaviors. They may worry that their loved ones are not paying enough attention (or perhaps too much attention) to their diabetes. They may find themselves falling into a "diabetes police" mode, but not really wanting to do so.
In most cases, we know that most spouse/partners want to be of help, but they may not be so sure how best to do so. Unfortunately, spouses/partners receive little emotional or practical support or guidance. In medical and diabetes education sett ings, there is rarely any concern or attention paid to their issues and they are often excluded from the care process. This is just crazy, because we know that when you, the person with diabetes, and your partner are working together, both diabetes and your relationship can be a whole lot better and easier.
Several years ago, we developed the diabetes etiquette card, now widely distributed in many countries around the world. This simple card was designed to gives spouses/partners a humorous way to start talking with each other about how to handle diabetes together. But now we are ready to take further action.
With support from the University of South Florida, their Bringing Science Home program, and in collaboration with the Patterson Foundation, we will be developing an automated, online program just for spouses/partners over the next year. In this program, spouses/partners will complete a questionnaire that will evaluate their particular stresses and strains as it relates to diabetes and their relationship with their partner. They will then receive personalized feedback about their questionnaire scores, followed by customized tips for what they can do.
In later versions, we hope to build a social media feature, so that spouses/partners can share stories and learn from each other. In total, the mission of this program will be to help spouses/partners to better understand and address the unique emotional issues that loving someone with diabetes can bring and, hopefully, to provide them with the support they may need.
To begin, we are preparing a questionnaire to help us to learn about the thoughts and feelings of spouses/partners of adults living with diabetes. And so we need your help: If you are a spouse/partner, can you tell us 1 or 2 things that you find stressful about living with someone with diabetes? Any comments you may have, be they positive or negative, will help us to develop our new questionnaire.
Just post your replies here, in the comments section below.
And thanks so much!