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Majority of carers of people with diabetes experience emotional problems, survey reveals

Carers of people with diabetes need greater levels of support from nurses, says Diabetes UK
Family caregiver

A high proportion of carers for people with diabetes experience emotional or mental health problems, a survey reveals today.

Diabetes UK has made suggestions for nurses about what they can do to support those caring for people with the condition in light of its findings.

What nurses can do to help carers of people with diabetes
  • Give carers the relevant information they need about diabetes to help them to help their loved ones manage their condition
  • Be aware that carers need support too. Make sure they have some support from friends or other family members
  • Involve carers in the consultation and decision making with the person living with diabetes (with that person's consent)
  • Point carers towards support groups and other platforms that are meant to offer them the help they need. Diabetes UK offers a range of

A high proportion of carers for people with diabetes experience emotional or mental health problems, a survey reveals today.


Picture: SPL

Diabetes UK has made suggestions for nurses about what they can do to support those caring for people with the condition in light of its findings.

What nurses can do to help carers of people with diabetes

  • Give carers the relevant information they need about diabetes to help them to help their loved ones manage their condition
  • Be aware that carers need support too. Make sure they have some support from friends or other family members
  • Involve carers in the consultation and decision making with the person living with diabetes (with that person's consent)           
  • Point carers towards support groups and other platforms that are meant to offer them the help they need. Diabetes UK offers a range of support for people living with diabetes and also their families. There are family support groups, an online forum, a digital learning zone and a helpline. To find out more, visit www.diabetes.org.uk

Source: Diabetes UK senior clinical adviser Libby Dowling

Research by the charity shows that 77% of the 652 parents and carers of people with diabetes who responded to the survey said they sometimes or often feel down because of their family member’s condition.

Other findings include:

  • A third (228) of carers who responded, want the person they care for to see a diabetes specialist nurse (DSN) more often.
  • Over a quarter (178) say that if they could change one thing about the healthcare they experience, it would be to receive more information and support to manage the condition day to day.
  • Carers of children with type 1 diabetes say it is challenging when people do not understand the realities of their child’s condition, and that emotional support would reduce the strain on them to ‘appear strong’ at all times.
  • Carers of older people with type 2 diabetes say that having the opportunity to be themselves, not just a carer, was important for their well-being, as well as receiving support from more experienced peers.

Growing impact of diabetes

The results were part of the Diabetes UK Future of Diabetes survey which ran from June until August 2017 and had more than 7,000 respondents.

There are 3.7 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK – about 90% are estimated to have type 2 and 10% have type 1, according to the charity.

Diabetes UK head of care Dan Howarth, who is also a nurse, said: ‘Diabetes doesn’t just affect the person living with condition; the impact is felt by everyone around them. A diagnosis will change the life not only of the person diagnosed, but also their friends, loved ones and those that provide care for them.

‘Caring for a child or adult with diabetes can sometimes be hard, and access to specialist information and support for those with diabetes and their families is instrumental to safely managing the condition.'

Adequate support

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said: 'It’s disheartening to see so many patients and carers for people with diabetes aren’t receiving adequate support for their emotional well-being but this survey does show the importance of DSNs, a role central to good patient care and patient outcomes including confident self-care. 

'DSNs are cost-effective, they help reduce the amount of time people with diabetes spend in hospital, and improve overall patient outcomes. 

'As the number of people with diabetes continues to rise, employers must not recruit less qualified and inexperienced nurses into specialist roles in pursuit of short-sighted cost savings. They must make sure DSNs can continue to have a meaningful impact on all people who live with diabetes.'

Advice for healthcare professionals

NHS England published guidance in June this year about how healthcare professionals should talk to people with diabetes, avoiding judgemental, undermining and stigmatising language.

Meanwhile, NHS England today (14 November) announced patients with type 1 diabetes across the country will now be able to access wearable glucose monitors on the NHS.

Before today's announcement, the wearable sensors, which replace the need for finger prick blood tests, were available only in areas where local clinical commissioning groups had agreed to supply them.


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