Teaming Up With a Doctor
Finding common ground with a loved one's physician
You're attending a doctor's appointment with a loved one who has diabetes. The doctor sees something in the blood glucose log that he or she doesn't like. Instead of asking the patient about the situation, the physician turns to you and asks, "What's been going on here?" or "Why aren't these numbers under control?"
It's easy to get frustrated or upset with this line of questioning. After all, as a caregiver, you're there to support your loved one emotionally and to be an extra set of ears for the doctor's recommendations. But if you and your loved one feel that the doctor doesn't trust the patient—either to handle his or her own treatment, or to be honest during the appointment—frustrations may rise. Cool heads must prevail if you're going to make the most of the visit, says Richard R. Rubin, PhD, CDE. He should know: He's a former president of the American Diabetes Association, coauthor of 101 Tips for Coping With Diabetes, and the father of an adult child with diabetes.
"Try, if you can, to see the physician as someone who is really trying to be helpful, even though it feels otherwise," Rubin says. "Probably, what the physician is feeling is what you're feeling: 'This is a frustrating situation, and I'm not sure what to do.' " Using a little patience, you can help turn the appointment around.
Put the patient back in control. In as constructive a way as possible, Rubin says, get the physician to acknowledge whose diabetes it is. Gently mention that the person with diabetes is in charge of his or her own diabetes management. You're here to be a support system.
Acknowledge how you feel. If you're feeling put upon, say so. Then ask the doctor to help you out. "Say, 'I do feel on the spot. . . . What would be really helpful to me would be for you to tell us some things you've seen that have worked,' " Rubin suggests. This puts the ball back in the doctor's court.
Level the playing field. Rubin says it can help to acknowledge common ground. After all, everyone at this appointment knows how challenging it can be to live with diabetes. "Flip the switch from 'I'm feeling criticized' to 'we're all frustrated,' " he says. "We're all trying to do the right thing."
Using any one or more of these techniques, you can help keep the diabetes checkup moving in a positive direction—and help your loved one feel supported.