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Diabetes self-managment – a family affair?

September 4, 2012 in News

Having the support of family and friends can make just about anything a little easier to deal with, but the reverse is also true. Not having that support when you really need it can make things that much more difficult, and a recent study performed by researchers at Vanderbilt University demonstrated just how problematic the lack of support can be for those managing type 2 diabetes.

The study was composed of two parts. The first piece involved 45 adults with type 2 diabetes, who each attended one of a series of focus group sessions regarding barriers and enablers to diabetes management. The researchers also collected survey data from 61 adults with type 2 diabetes, asking information on medication adherence, how much diabetes self-care knowledge their families had, and about diabetes-specific supportive and nonsupportive behaviors of their family members. Information on participants’ recent blood sugar control was gathered from their medical records.

Participants who reported that their family members were knowledgeable about diabetes also perceived that their family members performed more supportive behaviors related to helping them with managing their diabetes. Those participants who felt that their family members performed nonsupportive behaviors were also likely to be less adherent to their diabetes self-management regimen, and were also more likely to have worse glycemic control than their peers.

In the focus groups, some participants did give examples of family members who were informed about diabetes self-management, but still performed sabotaging or nonsupportive behaviors. Most of the participants emphasized how important it was to them to have family support for and help with the instrumental behaviors of self-management – checking blood sugar as recommended, for example. Nonsupportive behaviors were described by participants as sabotaging their efforts to perform these same behaviors.

Given the relationship observed between lack of family support and both poor glycemic control and reduced adherence to self-management regimens, the authors of the study concluded that future interventions to support diabetes self-care should look beyond the individual. They stated:

Interventions should inform family members about diabetes and enhance their motivation and behavioral skills around not interfering with one’s diabetes self-care efforts.

If you’ve experienced problems with family support, or with social support in general, you are not alone. You can watch our contributors sharing their stories about social support here.

The original news report can be accessed through HealthDay’s Physician’s Briefing. The abstract for the article, which will soon be published in Diabetes Care, can be found at the journal’s website.

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