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Diabetes Type 2

Home and social life

Family members were often involved in the lifestyle changes that people made after they were diagnosed with diabetes. Many people said that their spouses, partners and children were essential in helping them, and motivating them to keep their diabetes under control. Often the whole family made changes to their diet, and several people thought there had been benefits from doing this. Some involved their younger children or grandchildren when they were doing their blood glucose tests, taking their medication or injections, so that managing diabetes became a natural part of family life. 

 

Helen believes it helps to have a supportive partner.

Helen believes it helps to have a supportive partner.

Age at interview: 63
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 60
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I would hate to think I had to deal with it on my own without having a partner or a really close family which have... You need somebody, you need somebody with any illness. But the partner stops the depression. And also I think if they'll go the journey, I mean some husbands or partners don't want to go on the same journey, don't want to know about it. 'Oh, you deal with it. It's your problem' you know. But if somebody just goes along with you, everything you're doing. Fine. You know, even to calibrating the machine you use to get, you know, prick your finger, even to get new ones on the internet.

Just, supportive. Also to say, 'Look, I'm quite happy to eat what you're eating. I'll have a bit more chicken or a bit more of that, but basically the same food.' That does make life easier. We didn't change our diet greatly. Except I [now] get my husband eating vegetables you'd never heard of, that he would, didn't, and also camouflaging them in different ways. So that way it's been positive from his point of view.
 
 

Malcolm's wife helps him to keep eating the right food.

Malcolm's wife helps him to keep eating the right food.

Age at interview: 54
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 39
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When you came home and you told your family You were on your own when you were…?

No, we were married then. Yes, the wife, the children were very young, so they didn't know anything about it, but the wife and parents and relatives were, were quite shocked. But all rallied round, all helped. And the wife was always on to me about what I, you know, the food I used to eat and the wrong food at the wrong times of the day. So we started a new regime. And she's been very good and very supportive of keeping me in control and, you know, not letting me go out in the kitchen and have that Mars bar and Twix and, you know, chocolates. Which I try not to, but we all get tempted from time to time. So if I do eat too much, she's, you know, like a schoolteacher, “Come on, you know, you've got your test, your clinic appointment in a few weeks time.” So she's very good and very supportive.

And you mentioned that your, your wife is very central?

Extremely supportive. And the children, yes, now they're older. When they were younger, it didn't make any difference. But, yes, if, you know, daughter cooks a meal she's quite strict on me. But, yes, the wife and family are very supportive. And I think, you know, if I was one of these people that lived on my own, I don't know if I would, I love curry and things like that. So I could, I think I could live on it every night, but that wouldn't do my diabetes any good I'm sure. But… No, she is very good in, in stopping me doing things I shouldn't be doing. Eating-wise, yes [laugh].

So do you think it's because of her that you've kind of managed to control your diet?

It, it's helped considerably, yes. If I cook a meal, she hurt her back last year, and for me to cook a meal was a nightmare, you know. And if I had to cook a meal for myself it would be, I'd perhaps do some potatoes, but it would be mushy peas out of a tin and a pie or something. Whereas [my wife] will do all the fresh vegetables. Now, you know, I'll eat the vegetables if they're on the plate, but I wouldn't prepare them myself. Yes, so I think she, she helps control me a lot, keeps me in, out of trouble anyway. I'm not saying that because she's not here either.

 

Lawrence explained diabetes to his young children by telling them he had too much sugar in his...

Lawrence explained diabetes to his young children by telling them he had too much sugar in his...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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And then I had to explain it to my family, you know, what is going on and what I have, to the kids as well I explained it to them, what it is, but I had to find the, a lower level of language to explain to them what is going on and then I, you know, got them involved when I do my sugar, my blood sugar tests, and when I take my medication. I got them involved so that, you know they, they come to terms with it and then it just, that's how I slid it into the family and that's how we've been managing it.

And, and in terms of the kids, of course the kids didn't quite understand what it is, but, all I explained to them was, you know, 'I've got too many, Dad's got too much sugar in his blood, and he's got to make sure that we cut back the sugar in there.' And they took it on board, in fact [laughs] my daughter was, was so into this, that , up to now she still does it, whenever either we've visitors or on a visit she says, 'My daddy's got a lot of sugar in his blood so don't give him any sugar okay? He's got enough sugar.' And, and whenever I have tea, says, 'Daddy did you put any sugar?.' 'No I didn't.' 'Good 'cause you've got enough sugar.' So she's understood it from that basic level, that I've got sugar that I've got to manage in my blood, and that's how she's understood it. My son of course is, you know, understood it more, more intensely than that. So they came to terms with it in that respect that all I've got to do is make sure my sugar level's okay. But I didn't, you know, give them the, the life and death side of things, yeah.

 

Nicky's family help her to monitor her diabetes. She thinks her children don't worry about her...

Nicky's family help her to monitor her diabetes. She thinks her children don't worry about her...

Age at interview: 46
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 42
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The family have been incredibly supportive of what I'm trying to do. Even through my rattiest moments, bless them. They are now actually more strict with my diabetes control than I am. If, if I eat something that they think I shouldn't eat you know, they, they will keep an eye on the clock and poke me to test an hour later, and if I do test and it's gone up too high, they'll be shoving me out the door for a walk, occasionally coming with me, but they are very supportive.

Do you think they worry about you, I suppose, is what I'm getting at?

I don't think they do any more. Again the karate was really the icing on the cake because if I can beat them and, you know, we went to a karate training course a few weeks ago, where it was, it was the bank holiday weekend, three days of six to eight hours of karate a day and I was fitter than they was, so I think they've given up. I beat them in things like jogging three times round the football pitch [laughs]. And if I can continue to beat them at sparring sessions then I think that they've stopped worrying about me.

 

Kay taught her daughter what to do if she has a hypo. Being a single mum, she thinks her diabetes...

Kay taught her daughter what to do if she has a hypo. Being a single mum, she thinks her diabetes...

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
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I have learnt her to know what to do if I go into you know, like a hypo, she always gets me chocolate or she will get me a cup of tea with loads of sugar in it. With the pen she knows how to set it up and inject me, but she hasn't had, you know, the chance to inject me, but she knows where to do it and where the sites are. It is the belly, the back of the arm and toes. Or the inside leg. So she does know what to do.

Do you think it is quite a worry for her? Do you think she worries about your diabetes?

No. [Daughter] is older than what she is for a 12 year old. She's she has always been there for me, even though she hasn't lived with me, for six, seven years. She has lived with family members because I couldn't cope at the time. And then it took me five years to fight for her, to get her back. So it's' It can be hard for a child it don't matter what medication or what problems they have got, it is hard on any child. Not really grown up is hard enough for a child to cope with someone that is ill or someone that is dying, it wouldn't make any difference. It is hard on any child. So'

So she has had to grow up fast?

Yes.

However when people were in denial about their diabetes, it was difficult for families to know what to do. 

 

Darren's wife worried when he was in denial about his diabetes.

Darren's wife worried when he was in denial about his diabetes.

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 28
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My wife is happier now I'm in less denial. Because whilst I was in denial if she said anything then of course, I'm a nurse where I can bamboozle her with information and words and, and basically make her feel like she shouldn't possibly have opened her mouth. And that was wrong, but that's all part of the process isn't it? And I was wrong there. But so you know so she sat and quietly worried about her husband who wasn't facing his illnesses and therefore wasn't getting proper treatment, and therefore might not be around for as long as she was hoping. And so you know, that was a really big stress for her and so I think she's a lot happier now.

I've got another friend who, who takes me on walks and makes me sweat, and considering he runs up tors on Dartmoor, he makes me sweat [laughs]. And so he's got, he's on the case and my wife's much happier now I'm injecting. And you know and tries really hard to make food interesting and things and I, not that she does all the cooking, though she does do quite a bit at the moment because I'm very busy, but I used to do a lot of cooking. But makes me sound like awful bloke who comes in and demands food upon the table, wife. I'd never get away with that. But so yes, so'

So she's had quite a worrying time?

Yes, I mean she was hoping for a good innings of married life really you know, well you know 'traditional couple'. We're hoping, you know, hoping to get married and get together, make a home, have a family and sort of stay married until, for a good long time and grow old together. So she was sort of, you know, feeling I was sort of opting out of the last bit really and so she's a lot happier now I'm, obviously very concerned still about what's going on in my world and' She came to the last GPs appointment actually - that was very interesting for her. So, she enjoyed me being told off by a GP instead of her for once. So that was good fun for her [laughs].

Parents said they educated their children about their diet and lifestyle, and encouraged them to eat healthily and to take more exercise, hoping that it might reduce their chance of getting diabetes. 

Some were keen to ensure that any sign of diabetes in their children would be picked up quickly. One father encouraged his children to be tested regularly because he believed getting diagnosed early had minimised the impact diabetes had on his health.

Social Life
Diabetes had little effect on most people's social life. Many had learnt to manage their diabetes so that it didn't affect their ability to eat out in restaurants, at friends' houses, or in social gatherings. Some people said they only had small amounts of food and were careful to avoid sweet or spicy foods (as these are often high in sugar, salt and fat. Spices are not on their own bad for you). Others said that they only ate out occasionally so they felt the odd indulgence was okay. A few people found other's reactions and lack of understanding difficult, which made it harder to keep within their diabetic guidelines and they suffered for it the next day. Adjusting to less alcohol at social gatherings was difficult for some. 

 

At the temple Mrs Singh eats small amounts of the prassad and tries to avoid eating food...

At the temple Mrs Singh eats small amounts of the prassad and tries to avoid eating food...

Age at interview: 64
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 49
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And what if you go to visit somebody? If you go to somebody's house for a meal - how do you do it then?

If somebody invites us for a meal then over there also, well, there are so many things to eat, so whatever suits, I eat. So they say, 'Please take some, take some dessert, take it, nothing happens if you take it one day!'. So then I take it, I don't say no, I just take a bit, that's it. Like don't fill the bowl up, just have a bit less. For instance, yesterday we had gone, and there, fruit salad' there was some sweet afterwards, there was fruit, tinned fruit. That has syrup in it, doesn't it, so it's very sweet, so I said to them, 'I only want very little'. So, they know that I am a diabetic, so I said, 'okay, give me some, but very little'. So just eat a bit, and there's some left. So that nobody feels bad and good for oneself too. So, sometimes, like, what do you say, when they make prasaad [sweet food that you get in temples, it's been blessed so supposed to eat a bit], and that has so much sugar in it. When I go to the gurudwara [place of worship for Sikhs], the prasaad they make there is so tasty, I feel like eating it all, I feel like eating all that I am given. But no, I have to tell them that I only want so much. I say so much [hand gesture to show small amount] and they give me so much! [hand gesture to show large amount], [laughs]. If you tell them so much, then they give'

'so much more!

So, I say to them I only want a little bit. Just take a bit, a little bit. So you have to adjust a bit.

But some people do force you quite a bit. I have a friend who says, 'Why don't you eat chillies? Just for once, have them properly and then your mouth will get fixed!'. That is so wrong'I know how much discomfort I have, they don't know. So I said, 'No, I can't have it' and she deliberately put the chillied vegetables on my plate and said, 'Just taste it'. And I said 'I won't even taste it, your vegetable dishes have lots of chillies in it, I can't eat them.' So she said, 'So what will you eat, how will you eat it?'. I said 'Do you have some yoghurt? Give me some yoghurt, I'll have it with that.' It's not a big problem for me. If I sometimes don't each a vegetable dish, that is fine, I'll just have it with yoghurt. That's what I do. If I go to the temple sometime, so there is always yoghurt there, and vegetable dishes all have chilli in them, so I have it with yoghurt. And if they don't have yoghurt then they might have some sweet dish, like with milk, they have sevaiyya (sweet vermicelli dessert), or kheer (rice pudding). So I take one spoonful of kheer and with one phulka (Indian flat bread), I have it with the kheer. That's it. So don't have any vegetable dish, have it when you get home.
 

Paul doesn't go out as much as he used to and drinks less but says he's made the choice for...

Paul doesn't go out as much as he used to and drinks less but says he's made the choice for...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 38
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If we talk a little about sort of your social life. Has diabetes had any effect on your social life?

Oh yes, it has because I don't' I stopped going out as much as what I used to. And thing is, I used to go out seven nights a week. And I thought 'I've got to cut this out', so I cut it down to five nights a week. And then I cut it down to three nights a week. Now I go out on a Sunday and I might go out on an occasional Saturday, but it's been all through my own choice. Yeah, you probably can say it's affected my social life to a point, but as I say it's affected my social the way I wanted to affect it. Not what somebody is telling me, 'You are not going out and that is it'. I've decided not to do it. And I am saying, 'Oh I'm not going down tonight. I'm not going to have a pint tonight. I'm not going to bother'. So now I don't.

I don't have a drink. Very rarely drink in the week. I just go out on the weekend. Sometimes I go out on a Saturday night, sometimes I won't go out on a Saturday night. It all depends how I feel. But I do go out on a Sunday. I make a point of going out, I make a point of going out every Sunday. You've got to make a, say point, and say, I'm not going to do this, but I am going out Friday night to play darts or whatever. Or I am going out Sunday. You've got to keep going out one night. You can't just' because you will otherwise, you will just get in a rut, and say, 'I'm not going out now', and you will end up sitting in the house. You can't do that. You have got to make a vocal point. And again a lot entails with my job. Because of my shifts. And I think, 'I can't do this, because I am up in the morning driving', and so I just won't bother. No, I don't know, no bother. No, but, so social wise is going out for weddings or engagements or out with the, you know, family in a week end, or friends company. No it hasn't. It hasn't affected me. I don't drink as much as what I used to. But again that's through my choice, but I don't say, 'No I am not going'. I go, and I'll have a pint. I'll have a drink I won't go out and drink squash or water. I go for a pint, or what's the point of going to a pub, just for a glass of water. I am going out for a pint. And that is no reason I can't have a pint. So no, I can't really say it has affected my social life, sort of, any other way.

 

Mo takes small portions of sweet food she is offered at dinners or asks for some fruit instead.

Mo takes small portions of sweet food she is offered at dinners or asks for some fruit instead.

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 51
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I mean do you, supposing you were to go to somebody's house for dinner or something, for a meal, would you tell them that you were diabetic or, would like, would you'?

Not make a point, but you know maybe just, if it's obvious if someone really, if it offered something that you think, 'Oh no, it'd be better not to have that, or just have a little bit and see', or you know, there's nothing contagious about it I would say so it wouldn't hurt to say, and equally you don't have to say, if you don't want to. But other than what you're gonna consume you just say, 'Well I'm actually diabetic so, I'll just have a little bit rather than a big portion, or not have that, you know maybe have a piece of fruit or something'. Not because you're diabetic but you don't want your sugar level to you know go the other way so that you go hypo or whatever.
 

Sylvia gets fed up sometimes that she can't have the same food and drink as her friends.

Sylvia gets fed up sometimes that she can't have the same food and drink as her friends.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 40
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I mean, me and my friends, we all love going out for meals and you know, the places they want to go like Chinese, they're all full of sugar. You know, I went to a wedding in August and the next day I was meant to go out with my friends. So Saturday, went to the wedding had a really nice time. The next morning, I couldn't get out of bed. I felt, my legs just' Nothing would allow, I just couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't do anything, and my friends ring me up, rang me up and said, 'Be ready, [name].' You know, I said, 'No I can't. I really feel awful.' And they said, 'We'll give you half an hour extra.' I said, 'Okay, half an hour extra.'

Half an hour later, I still felt awful. I was really, I had no energy, I felt really bad, my head was just you know, felt awful. And I, they rang up, said, 'You ready, [name]?' I said, 'No, there's no way I can make it. I really do feel ill.' They said, 'Oh you've let us down.' I said, 'No, if I go out with you I think I'll end up in hospital.' And, because, we were going out to eat that day [laughs].

Anyway, the next day I did my sugar levels and it was 9.1. So, the, that Sunday it must have been really high, and that is what, because even my eyesight, my eyesight went funny as well. So I just think the food at the wedding, you know, it was the sit down meal. Even though I didn't even eat the cheesecake with my sit down meal and, maybe the drinks because when we got into the reception, not the reception, you know, after the church, they had champagne waiting for everybody and I did have a glass, orange juice and. And I think that all of that sent my sugar levels that high, I couldn't, because normally, I always cook them Sunday dinner, we have a full Sunday dinner, roast potatoes, I couldn't even get out of bed to cook dinner. I felt that bad.

I mean lately I have been because obviously, you know, I like going out and I like, you know, eating certain food and, when you find you can't, you know, you do, you feel very low. I mean I was feeling, you know. My friends all said, 'Well, what's wrong with you? You know, why are you? I said, 'I'm feeling really depressed, yeah.' Said, 'Oh, don't be silly. No you're not.' I said, 'Yes, I am.'

You know, because they don't understand, because all they ever say to me, 'Oh you, we couldn't, if we were diabetic we wouldn't be able to cope.' You know. And I think, 'Well I am, and I have to and I don't need you all saying, 'oh no, we'd still eat what we want to eat.' You know and this is what I get from some of them. You know, not from all of them, you know, and that is quite hard. So, you know, it does make me feel really low but...

And what'?

I don't want to go down the route where I go to the doctors and, you know, to say, 'Oh, I'm feeling depressed.' So I just feel then, you know, you get labelled with depression and I don't want to be labelled with that.

So has it affected your social life?

It has because you know, obviously sometimes there's a point where I say that I can't go, or if I do go, I've got to have more vegetables and, you know, they're all chewing everything off, and I think, 'God, I can't you know.' Alcohol, which I never drank a lot of anyway, you know, my nurse said to me, 'Try not to drink.' You know, so I, even say like a little glass, you know, a Breezer or something, I said, 'Oh no, I can't have one.' You know, I really, went but you know, now. Oh gosh. 

It's hard, you know, because they all love going out to eat and you know, that's what we do sort of thing, you know, or go out to eat and then maybe somewhere else after. Or go shopping, or after shopping we’d round it off for a meal somewhere. [laughs] You know, that’s what we do so that’s been very hard.

People who took insulin also had to manage blood glucose testing and giving themselves injections when eating out. Some people gave themselves an injection discreetly while at the dinner table. Others took their insulin in the car, on the bus or in another room. When eating out, some people asked for bread so that they could eat quickly after having taken insulin just in case the food didn't arrive on time. Some said that checking blood glucose levels was trickier than giving themselves injections when out socialising. One man said that cleaning the injection site beforehand was the most awkward thing to do. One woman found it hard to refuse the wrong type of food when visiting Pakistan, so on her doctor's advice, she took extra doses of insulin instead.

 

Gareth checks there is bread to eat at restaurants before he takes his insulin.

Gareth checks there is bread to eat at restaurants before he takes his insulin.

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 50
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Okay. So if we talk a little bit about your social life.

Yeah.

And how, if diabetes has any effect on your social life?

No. Diabetes hasn't affected me. I if we go out for a meal as long as I take my tablets or my insulin at the right time I'm a, okay. If we go to a dinner dance, or if we go where there's a meal concerned, you know I got to make sure that if I take my insulin, I don't like to take my insulin at the table or anywhere, I don't think it's, sometimes it's right. Because some don't accept the fact that you are putting a needle into your body. I don't upset anybody in that respect. If I am on a table where people know I am, I just do it then, and they don't mind, but I would make sure that there is a bread roll on the table because you never know the length of time that people take to serve if we are at a dinner, and towards the end of the rugby season I go to a number of dinners and I make sure that there is, I mean there is always bread, there before I have my injection. So you know I watch out on that.

And what about going to people's houses for dinner. I mean would you, would you kind of mention that you were diabetic or '?

No I wouldn't, I wouldn't do that. I just wouldn't, some of the things, if we say for instance, if they got a sweet out and there was a trifle there, I would have some of that, you know, and I am not, regimental in everything that I, I wouldn't upset anybody, I don't tell them anything except no sugar if they had a meringue or stuff like that, I wouldn't, really, it really depends how much it was, how much, if the portion they'd give you. You know, I'd have a little taste perhaps, but no, I don't, I wouldn't put it as a negative. I think certain things, you know I will admit I cheat, in, in some little things, like once a week perhaps, it used to be novel, and we used to go out on Sunday and stop at a local pub and I would have a cheese cake for lunch at the end, but that is just about it in general really. No and I don't think, no my sugars haven't changed, they might rise a little bit, but very, very little so I tend to look after that.

As long as, and it would be a negative if I was going out in anybody's house, I would say 'I can't have that, I can't have this'. I think it'd be wrong, if somebody, if I have been invited to somebody's house and they put a meal for me, more often or not I'd have to, I would eat it, not as if I would have to eat it, I would eat it and enjoy it, and just to be social, but not, if there was a sweet meringue, a sweet dessert, I would say, 'Oh I'll cheese and biscuits or something like that'. And it does happen. If I go, whenever we go away and things like this, instead of having the sweet trolley I would have a cheese and biscuits which is quite nice. Cheese and biscuit and a celery stick [laughs].

 

Philip says that remembering to test blood glucose levels at regular intervals can be difficult...

Philip says that remembering to test blood glucose levels at regular intervals can be difficult...

Age at interview: 68
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 46
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So can you tell me how taking insulin on this regular basis affects, affects your life?

It affects my life very little. The only problem is if I go out to dinner at night. And just before I eat I go into the Gents and give myself my jab. Or if I'm with friends who are not worried about it, then I'll just lift my shirt up and put a, put an injection in the side of me. Other than that it really doesn't worry me at all. I mean I'm used to doing it in the mornings before breakfast. I have to say that once or twice I have forgotten to take it in the evening. But basically I just have my insulin there on the side of my dinner, on the side of the table, and just before I eat my dinner I take another 20 units of insulin. And it's no problem at all to me.

What about testing your blood glucose levels? How do you find that?

Then again, in the mornings it's fine, at lunchtime it's fine. It depends what I'm doing in the late afternoons. It also, depending, it depends where I've been at night whether or not I actually remember to do it before I go to bed.

One of the things I stopped doing a year ago is drinking as much as I used to. I mean being a rugby player, you, your whole life revolves around beer and partying, and I must admit until fairly recently I used to drink more than I should. I've recently had leukaemia, and one of the things that I was told is that I had to cut my drinking right down. Which I've done. So if I go out at night and I've had one or two drinks, I come home and I may forget to do it late at night. But usually, as I'm becoming more used to doing it, then I do it without even thinking about it.

Travel
Travelling abroad had not posed a problem for many people. One man made sure he took twice the amount of medicine he needed and spread it across several suitcases. Having a letter from his doctor explaining his medicine had helped when he was going through customs.

Last reviewed March 2016.

Last updated September 2010.

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