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My uncle has type II diabetes, but he is not managing it. He doesn't go to the doctor, he eats as much sugar as he wants, and he doesn't exercise. At first, he was doing okay, but my family saw a decline in his health at each family function he attended. He can barely walk; he uses a can for assistance. When he stands up he gets instantly dizzy and almost falls to the ground. And he recently lost one of his index fingers to gangrene. He had to have it surgically removed. I feel like we've tried everything to get him motivated to improve his health. We limit the sugar and sweets at family functions, so the choices are almost gone. But he still will pick the one soda pop that isn't diet and pile on sweets and salty foods. We don't want to bug him with :You should take care of yourself" statements because sometimes that just makes a person shut down. No one likes to hear someone scold them about their health.

Is their a point where we should just stop trying? Has anyone had an experience with someone who wouldn't manage their diabetes? What do you suggest our family try to do to help? Or should we step back and let him be?

Bri Luginbill asked this
July 15, 2011 at 7:55 AM

A:

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Wow. That's hard. I can imagine the frustration.

I think that sometimes people feel they are so far into a disease that there's no point. Maybe they don't think it'll do any good, or they have just lost a sense of value for their own lives. Both are very sad.

My paternal grandmother had diabetes, and although I was only 17 when she died, and we lived far enough away that I only saw her about once a year, I'm pretty sure she didn't take care of herself. She was nearly blind, had both feet and some of her legs removed, and was terribly overweight. It was heart failure that eventually ended her life, but I'm sure that had she observed healthier habits in decades prior she would have lived longer, if not at least more comfortably.

It might be that there is a point at which you simply stop trying. There's always the option of an actually intervention, but there's no guarantee that it'll work. And when it comes down to it, your family could elevate their own stress levels over something they can't control.

How old is your uncle? Does he ever respond to what you all say?

Katie from SLN answered
July 15, 2011 at 12:34 PM

He is 60. He doesn't really respond to anything we say. My grandmother babied him when he was little and it affected him for the rest of his life. I think we are to that point where we are just going to stop trying because he doesn't care anymore. He has always lived with my grandmother. He never really moved out.

There was a 3 month period where my dad helped him get an apartment. But he spent all his money right away. One day my dad walked in to visit him and he was just eating pure sugar out of a bowl. There was nothing else in the house but that for food. This was probably when my uncle was around 30. So, living on his own didn't work and he moved back in with my grandma.

My grandmother passed away last year, so he has been living on his own for the first time since he was 30. He was always in bad health, but since she's been gone...it's gotten even worse. She just would always take care of him. So her passing away has really affected his health even more. I also think he may have a form of autism as well but it's not diagnosed.

So as sad as it is, I think it's time just to let him be. He is a great uncle. He's always been nice to me and kind. But it's just time to let him do his own thing when it comes to his health.

Bri Luginbill answered
July 15, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Wow, that's a really hard situation. I think unfortunately you may be right in not bugging him to take care of himself; often, that triggers the exact opposite of the hoped-for response. Does he ever go to his doctor?

Does he live far away? If not, maybe your family could go over to his place for dinner and bring a big meal full of things he can eat, and then let him keep the leftovers (and maybe bring some extra food). If he lives close, you might be able to do this semi-regularly. Just don't make a big deal of it all being diabetic-friendly - in fact, I wouldn't bring up the diabetes at all. If he asks, just tell him that you want to keep him company, since it must have been hard losing his mother.

If he doesn't live close, obviously, this would be more difficult. But if you ever go to visit him, you could do something similar. It may not be much, but I'm sure he would appreciate (even if he wouldn't admit it) being reached out to in a way that doesn't directly mention his diabetes.

Laura Hogg answered
July 22, 2011 at 10:00 AM

That's a really good idea, Laura. I think I will take you up on your advice and visit him with a diabetic-friendly meal. He really is a good Uncle; everyone struggles with their own problems. He lives about an hour away, so sometime I will have to plan an afternoon out there to visit. Thanks :)

Bri Luginbill answered
July 22, 2011 at 10:10 AM

I know that when I am pestered about a certain problem that I am not fixing, I become really frustrated. So, I suppose that since he knows what he needs to be doing, I say you have to let him be. Once I have covered a topic with someone and they have decided not to take my advice, you cannot brutalize them with it. We can kindly broach the topic every once in a while (yearly) to see if anything has changed that would make them more susceptible to listening to counsel, but if they are still going to be stubborn, there is nothing we can do. I'm sorry for your situation, and hope that you will be able to enjoy your uncle for everything he is, even if he won't listen to your wise counsel.

Rex answered
May 25, 2012 at 1:59 PM
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