How I take care of my 75-year-old diabetic mother-in-law

minute read
May 8, 2023
A 75-year-old Indian type 2 diabetic.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story. Photo credit - Pranav Kumar Jain.

Providing diabetes home care for my 75-year-old diabetic mother-in-law has been a challenging but rewarding experience.

One of the biggest problems is managing her love of carbs, which can cause her blood sugar level to spike.

However, we’ve developed strategies to help manage her diabetes.

Being empathetic

To start, it’s important to remember that diabetes is a condition that requires constant attention and management. And it can have serious health complications.

For someone with diabetes, it can be very stressful and draining physically, mentally and emotionally. Trying to place myself in my mother-in-law’s position helps me understand the problems she’s facing and makes me better able to help her.

Changing her diet

When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with diabetes, it was a shock to our family. She’d always been a foodie, so trying to change her diet was very hard. However, we knew that she had to take her diabetes management seriously and consulted with her doctor and dietitian to create a diabetes management plan and diet that suited her needs.

We started by reducing her carb intake and focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats. And we made sure to include foods that were low on the glycemic index to prevent spikes in her blood sugar. Working together, we found recipes that she enjoyed and that were healthy for her.

Carb cravings were one of her biggest challenges – She loved bread, pasta and rice, and it was very hard for her to give them up.

To manage this, we focused on portion control and moderation. We offered her smaller portions of carb-heavy foods and paired them with high-fibre vegetables or proteins. We also encouraged her to eat complex carbs like sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice, which have a lower glycemic index than white rice or bread.

And we pureed lots of her food for her – High-fibre foods are often hard and crunchy, but weak gums are a side effect of diabetes and my mother-in-law has lost most of her front teeth, so we needed to make her food easy for her to eat.

Keeping her physically active

Another crucial part of diabetes management is regular physical activity – Exercise can help lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve overall health.

However, exercise is a challenge for my mother-in-law as she also has severe rheumatoid arthritis.

We encouraged her to exercise regularly, even if it was just a short walk or gentle yoga. And we monitored her blood sugar level regularly, especially before and after meals, adjusting her diet and medication as needed.

Adjusting her lifestyle

As well as diet and exercise, we also focused on other lifestyle changes that could help manage my mother-in-law’s diabetes. We made sure she got enough sleep (which can affect blood sugar levels) and tried to reduce her stress by meditating with her and listening to music.

One of the biggest challenges was convincing her to take her medicines. Because of her symptoms, and other health complications, my mother-in-law’s attitude toward medicine has become quite sceptical, and getting her to take her medication was very difficult. To address this, we made sure she attended regular doctor appointments and took her medication as prescribed.

Final thoughts

Providing diabetes care to my mother-in-law has been hard, but rewarding. To support her, we’ve had to make significant changes to our lifestyle and eating habits. But we’ve also learned a lot about nutrition and healthy living.

Diabetes management requires constant attention and effort, but the reward of successfully managing the disease makes it worthwhile – We’ve seen improvements in my mother-in-law’s blood sugar level, overall health and quality of life, which is the ultimate goal of diabetes management.

It required a team effort (involving my mother-in-law, myself, her doctor and dietitian) to create a diabetes management plan that suits her needs. But it’s working, and we’ve found a balance that fits her physically and mentally.

Graphic of a female profile picture.
Sana Tayyab

Sana is a caregiver for her 75-year-old mother-in-law, who struggles to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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