Family and Diabetes

Written by Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

When you're living with diabetes or another chronic condition, what does that mean in terms of your family life? How does your diabetes impact those closest to you, and how do they react to the challenges or limitations of your condition? 

Family Matters

The influence of family life on diabetes---and vice versa---cannot be overstated. From Great Britain to the United States, scientific research, scholarly journals, and anecdotal evidence all demonstrate that family life and diabetes are intricately and intrinsically related. 

Conflict, Discord, and Diabetes

Studies have shown that couples in which one member is a diabetic are very susceptible to poor health outcomes  if the couple has poor problem-solving skills, "negative emotional tone," and poor organizational skills. Conflict resolution is important in couples, and when those skills are lacking, it appears that diabetes is negatively impacted.

In 2014, I wrote about emotional regulation, relationships, and health here on this blog, and those sentiments still hold true for those readers who desire solid, functional relationships along with optimal health. 

Depression

There is also evidence that a correlation exists between a patient having diabetes and their partner experiencing depression. One can only imagine that the stress of having a partner with poorly controlled diabetes, for example, could lead to the development of significant symptoms of stress. And if the patient with diabetes happens to be a young child, that stress could be significantly magnified for the parents, and possibly the caretaker siblings. 

Communication is Key

Communication is key to any relationship, and the presence of chronic illness within a family system calls for extraordinary and ordinary tools. Extraordinary tools may include family therapy and other interventions for families who have lost their center and need concerted support. So-called "ordinary" tools include kindness, compassion, and the ability to be present for one another without overreaction or judgment. 

Family and Health Go Together

Family and health are intricately intertwined, never to be separated. At times, it's the actual patient who faces the most challenges, but sometimes it's the partner, spouse, sibling, or parent who is most challenged and thrown off their game. 

Mutual support, professional help (when necessary), and radical acts of kindness and compassion help families cope with illness and various health challenges. 

Come together as a unit, seek the support you need, and remember that the health of the family and the health of the individual can neither be separated nor ignored.