It's Valentine's Day, and love is in the air, Folks. Red roses, boxes of chocolate, and... glucose meters? For PWDs, there is no escape from the challenges of diabetes, but some of us are lucky enough to find someone to face the trials and tribulations by our side. Others may still be searching, or just starting out in a new relationship...
Inevitably the question comes up of how "involved" a partner should be in a PWD's life with diabetes. More specifically, how you and your partner work together in your diabetes management? Does your partner help out? Are they completely oblivious? What do they do that makes you smile, and what do they do that make you cringe?
Obviously, these are very personal questions, and in the two-week survey we ran recently we heard a lot of different answers. In fact, we had over 80 responses — so thank you all for your willingness to share!
To our surprise, the vast majority of you have attentive partners who are actively involved in your diabetes life, either occasionally, regularly, or all the time. Yay! Plus, nearly everyone said they were either happy with the level of involvement or they wanted their partner more involved. Only 3 people wanted their partner less involved with their diabetes.
One of the questions we asked was What does your partner do for you in your diabetes management that you like? Since so many respondents said they are happy with what their partner is doing, we thought it would be very interesting to summarize their comments. There were definitely some distinct trends visible on how partners can get best get involved:
Learning and Understanding
The most common praise came for partners who learned about the nitty-gritty of diabetes. One respondent wrote, "[He] always asks. He has also been the only one who has bothered to learn about diabetes."
Many people also reported satisfaction that their partners pay attention to how diabetes affects their state of mind. One person wrote, "[My partner] notices symptoms of high BGs that I wouldn't — moods mostly." Diabetes can definitely affect emotions in negative ways, too, especially when you're feeling sick and frustrated, so having a sympathetic partner is a true blessing. Another respondent wrote, "If I am low and angry, she won't engage in a fight. [She] just says go test and eat something, then come back. [She is] forgiving when my temper flares."
Words of Comfort and Concern
For those of us dealing with the D-Police, having a sweet and empathic partner might seem like a strange concept. Although most of us have dealt with unexpected blows about our diabetes management and health from a significant other at some point, a few folks shared that words of concern done right can be actually be a positive thing.
"My partner may just ask in a gentle tone, 'Are you feeling OK?' [or] 'How's your blood sugar?' It's very subtle; not intrusive," one respondent wrote. Another shared, "[He is] not overbearing, no chiding or negative comments when things aren't going as they should, and always offers positive reaffirming and inspiring comments."
Actions Speak Louder
Sometimes you just need to get it done, right? Well, about half the results of our question about hands-on partner involvement were in praise of help not by asking questions, but just by doing. Top of the list: food (the bane of our existence). The things folks most loved were when their partners planned meals, cooked and participated in carb counting!
Being "on top" of a low without needing to be told is definitely appreciated among many of the respondents. 15% said that getting juice or helping with a hypo was something great their partner does to help with their diabetes. Another sign of love: "Stocks his apartment full of low treatments." It's the little things, right?
Sometimes it's just being available: "He is willing to stop anything to help me if I need it."
This note certainly makes you stop and appreciate all the little things our partners do for us: "He watches what I eat without being overbearing. He tries to buy good things at the grocery store. He encourages me to exercise and take care of myself. He reminds me every day that life is worth living by my side and he wants me around for years to come." Awww....
The Back-Up Diabetic
A surprising number of people praised partners who act as a "back-up diabetic" — whether it's going to doctors appointments, checking on medical supplies, arguing with insurance providers or monitoring the CGM. Now this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is helpful to a great number of us.
One survey respondent wrote, "He listens and troubleshoots with me. He has been very active in helping me deal with Animas while I've been having trouble with my pump, and managing the time-intensive end of things: pump manufacturer, ordering supplies, making doctor's appointments, calling the Ministry of Health (in Ontario) when there's been some paperwork issues, and lots more."
Personally, I remember that one of the hardest things about moving away from home was no longer having my parents by my side to help with re-ordering my diabetes supplies or notice patterns in my blood sugars. Having a second set of eyes on blood sugar trends or making sure we've taken our meds can be a complete life-saver!
It's also important to know when to back off, of course. One person wrote about her partner: "There wasn't really a discussion. He just observed and never assumed anything. He also knows I'm very independent and to not interfere with that too much."
Although majority of folks were happy with their partner's involvement, not everyone is so lucky. Almost 10% said their partner is either never involved or rarely involved, while 20% want their partners to be more involved. So how do you communicate those needs to your partner? How do you stay on the same page?
The most frequent answer, as expected, is to talk openly! One respondent wrote, "We talk things through and he made the effort to do his own research on type 1. I also explaied to him what the effects are, emotionally and physically, when control is poor or I am sick so that he understands how to respond."
Leading by example also helps, as one person noted: "I take my diabetes seriously so he knows that he should too. I also try to find a balance between being independent and willing to ask for help. As humans we can't do much alone and respecting this is vital. I have to be willing to help him in different ways as well. It's a two-way street."
Several folks mentioned that they felt it's important to not make diabetes seem too "easy." Although we don't want to come across as weak or frail, it is important for those closest to us to remember that diabetes is serious and that we do need help. One person wrote, "Communication is key ... I don't have any outward signs of disease so it can be easy for those around me to forget just what a serious condition I have, even my partner. Don't be shy about telling people what you need."
Some food for thought as you celebrate Valentine's Day today? We thank you again for sharing, and much love to all of you!