Petaling Jaya, 7 April 2022 – According to the Diabetes Education Manual 2020 published by Malaysian Diabetes Educators Society, seven million Malaysian adults are likely to develop diabetes by 2025¹, an alarming trend that will see diabetes prevalence of 31.3% for adults aged 18 years and above. This number also most likely means that we will see a multiplied number of caregivers of diabetes patients, who are generally loved ones of the patients themselves.
This World Health Day, For Your Sweetheart Campaign works closely with Persatuan Diabetes Malaysia (PDM) to shine a spotlight on caregivers and the importance for them to self-care, by producing a video titled ‘Diabetes Serious Meh’. The video shares the journey of several diabetic patients and also highlights the challenges faced by their caregivers who journeyed together with them. Research shows that 1 in 5 adults in the country² is living with diabetes, a long-term chronic illness which requires prolonged caregiving. Therefore, with the trend of increasing diabetes patients, the increase in caregiver burden should not be ignored.
Dr. Tan Ming Yeong, Diabetes Nurse Specialist who is also a certified diabetes educator explains, “Diabetes Mellitus is a life-long condition. Living with diabetes and its daily management often involves multiple physical and psychological challenges that can affect many aspects of the life of people with diabetes and their family and caregivers. The caregiving demands increase if the person with diabetes are partially or fully dependent on their care from the caregivers such as the young, the old or those with diabetes complications. These demands leave caregivers vulnerable to physical and emotional distress that can affect their health and quality of life.”
As evident by the experience of many caregivers, it is common to face emotional stress, physical exhaustion and even health problems due to lack of time and energy for self-care which leads to reduced exercise and unhealthy eating habits. Unfortunately, these challenges faced by caregivers coupled with a family track record of diabetes, increases their risk of developing medical illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.
Echoing the caregiving challenges is Ms Shanti, daughter of 70-year-old diabetes patient who developed diabetes-related heart complications and went through a heart bypass surgery, Mr. Subramaniam. “Caring for my father during the diabetes journey, particularly after he had the bypass surgery, was very challenging. My father really suffered during the bypass and the caregiving post-surgery was demanding. He wasn’t the easiest patient to care for and being the eldest child, the burden of caregiving was mostly on me. Having witnessed the pain that my father went through, I can’t imagine myself being a diabetes patient. Hence, I have made it a point to screen for diabetes every year and also educate myself about identifying early symptoms of diabetes.”
“The demands of caregiving can be exhausting and overwhelming. The well-being of caregivers is important because the person with diabetes depend on them for care and support. Helping caregivers in managing stress, regain their sense of balance, joy, and hope in life will impact on the quality of life of people with diabetes and clinical outcomes. The best thing caregivers can do for the person they are caring is to ensure his/her own physically and psychological wellbeing,” added Dr. Tan.
To support all Malaysians, particularly caregivers, For Your Sweetheart Campaign invites all Malaysians to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy with a FREE Diabetes HbA1c Screening at participating clinics nationwide. This noble initiative of creating public awareness on the link between diabetes and heart disease, and the Free Diabetes Screening effort is supported by Boehringer Ingelheim in partnership with Malaysian Endocrine and Metabolic Society (MEMS), Malaysian Diabetes Educators Society (MDES) and Persatuan Diabetes Malaysia (PDM). Log on to www.foryoursweetheart.my to register for the Free Screening today!
As the saying goes that ‘the best teacher in life is experience’, 67-year-old Encik Ghazali who has been living with diabetes for 17 years and being cared for by his wife, has this advice for all Malaysians, “To everyone out there, especially the young people, I urge you to take care of your eating habits when you are young because once you get diabetes, it is really hard to manage it. Furthermore, diabetes will also affect us in other areas such as our heart and kidneys. I heard that diabetes patients are four times more likely to develop heart disease3. Therefore, if you have family members who are diabetes patients, or if you think you are at risk, please get tested because early detection will help greatly in the management of diabetes.” Log on to https://www.foryoursweetheart.my to register for your Free Diabetes Screening today. For Your Sweetheart FREE Diabetes HbA1c Screening is ongoing until 31 December 2022.