Supporting a struggling spouse

Hi, I am new to the forum. I would like advice on how to support my husband who is diabetic. He is a smart person who has an amazing memory and is capable of being very dedicated to a task or project, but he seems to have a big mental block when it comes to managing his health. He often needs to be reminded to refill the glucagon Rx, or to eat before leaving the house for errands, or to carry emergency snacks or glucose tablets with him. He was inconsistent about checking blood sugar until we got him on CGM which does help, but it seems like he often just ignores it when the alarm goes off. Low blood sugar incidents have had a major impact on his career and our lives. He seems stressed and anxious and I’ve been encouraging him to get counseling. I’ve done everything I can think of to help and be supportive but things are not getting better and I don’t know what else to do. Open to any & all advice- thank you!

hello @Sk805,

I am sure he means a lot to you, and I am sure you are reaching out because you care about him. Most of us have to come to some form of balance in our head over what makes perfect control. the first thing that comes into my head is that highs and lows are impossible to avoid completely. normal blood sugar levels are a teeny tiny target and if you move a leg muscle or have 4 grams of sugar more than anticipated, you’ll be out of “normal” range. Now take into account that packaging in the US allows a certain level of error, that there is error in portion size, and there is +/- 20% error in a blood sugar finger stick AND EVEN MORE error in a CGM reading and you start to realize that normal blood sugar range is more of a concept than a reality.

so you have to then ask if your general control is ok or needs improvement, and the standard of that measurement is an hbA1c. and some basic additional questions for example if hypos are severe or just a regular low. a severe hypo, to me, is one where you can’t help yourself and need outside help specifically, for me, not a reading of 47mg/dl, but more like if I fall down and can’t get up.

the drudgery and relentlessness of this disease can make anyone burn out. I once kept my blood sugar between 69 and 99 for about 2 weeks, including after meals, and it was exhausting. I could not sustain that level of control. I also ignored my diabetes for years at a time, out of depression and denial, which is something I also can not sustain but for different reasons.

so what kind of control are you looking for? is your husband’s a1c more like 7% or more like 15%? are his hypos severe or not severe and by what standard? is he burnt out, clinically depressed, or is it more like a disinterest? I think these degrees of differences mean a lot when it comes to helping a person deal with a chronic and incurable disease. please reach out if you’d like to discuss and good luck.

I would say that my husband’s support comes in a few different forms. He mostly leaves me alone to manage myself, but if he notices me acting strange he might ask me if my blood is okay or even ask me to test. Most of the time my response is something like “ugh, I’m fine”, but sometimes he’s right. I try my best not to get annoyed with him asking, as I know he is only doing it because he cares, but there will always be that feeling of “he doesn’t really understand”. Try not to take it personally.

When I am low, he might bring me juice or cookies (not because I’m too low to do it for myself, but just because) and make sure he occupies our 2 year old for a little bit so that I can take care of myself. When I was pregnant and striving for much better control, he used to test my blood for me in the middle of the night (he’s a night owl that goes to bed late, so would test me before he got into bed). That’s probably the most hands on thing he ever did.

Probably the best thing you can offer is empathy. Sometimes if I’ve been running high for a few days or had a lot of ups and downs, I tend to get irritable and just feel worn out. He seems to understand when this happens and tries to let me rest if possible (sometimes 2 year olds aren’t conducive to resting). Whatever you do, do not try to micromanage his day-to-day management unless he asks for your help. It would be easy to be critical of him (are you sure you should be eating that? why didn’t you exercise today? etc) and I know my personal response to such things wouldn’t be good.