Whether your parent is at risk of type 2 diabetes or already has it, they may be resistant to changing their behaviors to benefit their health. A quarter of people 60 and older have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
An effective discussion about your parent's health can help them avoid complications such as nerve damage, foot problems and eye and kidney disease. Malnutrition (whether under- or over-) should also be addressed, since this health condition in patients with type 2 diabetes demonstrates a 70 percent increase in mortality risk. Uncontrolled diabetes also increases their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Taking a thoughtful approach to these sensitive discussions can make the difference. Here's how to help.
The role reversal of potentially telling your parent what to do can cause conflict. Your parent may not want to listen. Be patient during this transition. Advice from a third party expert such as a doctor, dietitian or diabetes educator may carry more weight than the same advice coming from you. After a visit to a professional, you can reinforce the information and recommendations your parent learned.
Managing type 2 diabetes means making lifestyle changes, taking medications and checking blood sugar — all of which requires good planning. Talk about how to stick with a plan, such as writing the schedule on paper or setting alarm reminders. The idea of all this planning can be overwhelming, so take on some of the responsibility to get it done and set your parent up for success.
Help Set Small Goals
Again, big changes can be overwhelming. Smaller goals can help keep your parent motivated. Rather than suggesting a complete lifestyle overhaul, discuss small changes that could add up to better health. For example, your goals could include eating three healthy meals a day, taking daily walks after lunch and staying on a medication schedule.
Explain How to Recognize Symptoms
Talk to your parent about how to recognize when their blood sugar is too high or low. Diabetes causes certain symptoms that they should keep an eye out for. You should also talk about how to treat blood sugar issues when they arise. In these cases, it's helpful to refer back to what their doctor told them.
Offer to Do It With Them
Let your parent know they won't be alone in this. Offer to change some of your own routine to help them get through theirs.
For example, your parent may feel less alone if you follow the same eating plan when you're sharing meals with them. Eating a healthful meal in solidarity is much more encouraging than eating foods they can't have in front of them. Beyond meal times, support other healthy behaviors. For example, offer to walk or garden together to encourage a more active lifestyle.
Keep Things in Perspective
Nurses often tell their diabetes patients that they will have good days and bad days. Rather than letting one bad day lead to a downward spiral in health, encourage your parent to approach the next day as a new start. Reiterate to them that the next moment is always a new opportunity for smart choices. A lifetime of habits does not mean they aren't capable of change.
The more you can help your parent learn about type 2 diabetes, the better the two of you can work together to prevent or manage it. Helping them with education and awareness can help your parent live a longer, healthier life.