"I Don't Care About My Health Right Now"

Adrian Al-Samarrie (left) and his dad, Jamal.

| Jan 30, 2008

It is always interesting trying to observe something that we don't ourselves live with. Though I do not have diabetes, I am surrounded by it through family, friends and work on a daily basis.

This is a blessing in disguise, both for the education I receive on living a healthy lifestyle to ensure that I don't develop the disease (which is prevalent on both sides of my family) and for helping me assist the one person closest to me in this world - my dad.

When I returned home to Australia in November - kind of an annual pilgrimage for me - I found myself once again at my dad's house keenly observing his type 2 diabetes management (he was diagnosed in 1997), which, as I understand, is downright poor. My dad is my role model, mentor, father and best friend. So I decided to bring him a new Bayer Contour meter after learning he had not checked his blood sugar in more than six months! It was a gift that he assured me he would use if I brought it with strips - which I did.

One day my dad had just come home from work and we were preparing a big Aussie BBQ. It had been a long, hot day - my toddler brothers were bouncing off the wall and everyone was getting hungry. The stress level was high. Dad had begun to become more and more uptight, and after he commented that his blood sugar was low I asked him how he knew it was low if he never tested?

Have you ever tried challenging a person with diabetes at a high-stress time? Now I'm sure we all know someone who feels the need to justify his lack of pro-activity in managing his diabetes. But it was the next thing Dad said that motivated me to write this: "I don't care about my health right now."

A feeling of defeat shot through me, although I knew this was ultimately not my fight or responsibility. All I could do was continue to encourage change. Pictures of his beloved mother, who passed away at 65 from a stroke due to poor diabetes control, suddenly flashed through my mind. I asked myself, "Is this when he will begin to care, after it's too late?"

Feeling Frustrated

Having someone so close to me visibly affected by diabetes made it frustrating for me to be around him. I felt like a nagging son. I was really hoping that he would receive a message coming from me better than coming from his doctor. As my visit stretched on, we got into constant discussions about testing blood sugar, eating better, not smoking, and of course, exercise! In the end, though, I believe my whole trip went by without him taking even one BG test - something I continue to work on from abroad encouraging him to do.

Although my visit went by without much visible progress, both of us did experience a definite feeling of achievement. My dad agreed that he needed to make some lifestyle changes and even went in numerous times for lab work to check on his cholesterol, glucose and other indicators. In the end, I did begin to see a small shift in his attitude, from that of a man who says, "I just take my pill everyday," to that of somebody who saw that he could control his diabetes rather than have it control him.

I could go on about the ups and downs of diabetes management I witnessed, but my goal was to support someone I love dearly so that he could live a healthy and prosperous life. As I told my dad that day, "You may not care about your health, but I do." He is a brilliant man of whom I am so proud, and I just want him to know that he has my unconditional support, always.

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Personal Stories, Type 2 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 31 January 2008

I understand how frustrating it is! I was diagnosed as type 2 last year and have educated myself on the condition and is managing is quite well. But, now I know how diabetics should manage their condition and my closest friends/family do not care about managing their diabetes!

Posted by riva on 31 January 2008

One of the best ways to support your dad is to find out what holds meaning and happiness for him and help him see how he can have more of that by bringing his diabetes under control. It is so natural for loved ones to try and talk sense to someone who's not controlling their diabetes. But I think better control is emotional not logical. If your dad connects with what he loves in life and remembers its worth, that may help him see the value in better control.

Posted by Naturally on 31 January 2008

Adrian, I really feel for you. Since you are really concerned with your father's health. Unfortunately for your dad with his uncontrolled condition will only get worse before it gets better. Even though he may not have certain symptoms today Does Not mean they are not with him now. Meaning Diabetes both 1 & 2 are a connect-the-dots of many ailments; high blood pressure,nerve damage,heart disease,etc.
Diabetic Education is the Key for everyone involved with Diabetes. It should start with the Diabetic them self.
You Dad should be proud of you for caring so much about his welfare. Personally, I would take him to your local hospital & show him someone on Kidney Dialysis, also have him visit a diabetic with gangrene. Sometimes seeing is believing. Good-Luck to you Both!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 February 2008

Hey bro its your brother patrick that is a really good article u wrote about dad i love you bro`

Posted by Anonymous on 5 February 2008

Hey bro its your brother patrick the article you wrote about dad was really touching and so true i always worry about dad on a regular basis especially his heart condition i love you bro you are doin a good job. keep it up :-)

Posted by Anonymous on 10 February 2008

My mom reminds me of your dad. She lives 8 hrs away and when she was here for a visit she told my friend (we had all gone to lunch) that her blood sugar was low and she wasn't going to tell me b/c she didn't want a lecture. I am a Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and it is so so so hard to watch my mom abuse her health this way. All I can do is avoid getting it myself and I was angry for a long time but I knew I needed to be able to love and respect her for who she was and just learn from it instead of being angry. I know she is depressed, and does not do much outside the house (watches TV a lot) b/c she sometimes says the things like your dad says. However, it is her disease and it is always a tense disaster to discuss it.

I used to weigh about 70 pounds more and lost wt and now exercise to avoid getting diabetes, which runs in my family for the overwt family members....

She also has every blood glucose machine on the market and still goes for days w/o checking it... it is hard but I cannot control ANYONE but myself.

Thank you so much for your article - I feel less alone now b/c of you ;-)

Posted by Anonymous on 15 February 2008

It is a tough spot to be in, to watch a family member not care for their health. I was diagnosed in 2005 with Type II, and quickly got myself up to speed on the latest vitamins, minerals, new treatments, etc. Education was the key for me, because I learned that small changes make BIG differences. One suggestion for you is educate yourself (sounds like you are) on the disease, its implications and complications, and latest guidelines, standards, treatments. Then continue to provide the kind of support that you are giving now--not nagging, but more, "Dad, I want you around for a long time because I love you"--that message is being landed, whether he acts like he hears it or not. Nagging does NOT help. Encouragement does. When he tells you something positive, lay it on, "Dad that is awesome! How can I help?" this sort of thing. I think you are doing a great job. I, personally, feel a sense of accomplishment when my A1C scores are below 6 and they have been for a couple of years now. So encouragement about getting numbers down and the risk reductions might help too.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 February 2008

It is very hard to see someone you love not look after himself, knowing that this can lead to serious health consquences down the road.
As a certified diabetes educator I know that not testing blood sugars can be a red flag for depression. This might be the case for your dad.
There is a wonderful book I would recommend for your dad (if he enjoys reading) that acknowledges the difficulty and frustrations living with diabetes:
Diabetes Burnout-What to do when you can't take it anymore by William Polonsky

Posted by LKP-RPH on 19 February 2008

Family support is so important-your dad is indeed lucky to have a concerned son like you. I have for years longed for support from my family unfortunately my mother insists that my Type 1 is somhow my fault. She threw away the books I gave her at my diagnosis (I was 29) making it clear she had no interest in learning about my disease. I was not asking for help in caring for myself -I have always been perfectly capable of that-I just thought she might be interested in this terrible disease that I have. Please keep up what you are doing-it may not seem that you are helping him but I most certainly believe that you are!!!!

Posted by dorisjdickson on 23 February 2008

I'm a long time juvenile onset diabetic who does care about myself and my health. I've never felt the way your father does so I have a hard time relating to other diabetics. It becomes very hard for me to watch the self-destruction and wind up having to walk away to keep my own sanity. I'll help those who want to help any day of the week but I can't sink myself watching others slowly kill themselves. I can't imagine watching a parent.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 February 2008

I've myself has had a tyrst with "I don't care right now." I got diagnosed in 2005 and there have been times where I truly did not care. But what got me to caring was my teenagers. They told me that they wanted me to stick around for a while longer. It's still an uphill battle for me, but I continue to try my best and don't let life and Diabetes get me down... too much. :o) I hope and pray that all goes well with Father.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 February 2008

I went through the not caring about my health stage until I nearly died. I acted as if I didn't have Type I diabetes. I didn't take my insulin, ate whatever I wanted and continued to lose weight. When people don't know that you are a diabetic and they tell you how great you look because of your weight loss it only reinforces the lack of caring or desire to address your illness. Due to my lack of caring and neglect of my chronic illness I allowed my children to find me in my bed delirious, breathing poorly, and nearly dead. I was rushed to the hospital where I remained in intensive care for nine days. I had to be given IV's of potassium which felt like acid in my veins. I laid in my hospital bed clutching a stuffed dog my children had brought me whimpering like a child. I was 41 yrs old at the time. I put my family, my friends, and coworkers through hell. I weighed 104 pounds and was severly depressed when I left the hospital. All because I didn't care about my health. I now have a new endo. He is the best. I also got an insulin pump and will be starting Symlin injections on March 4th. My health has improved significantly although it took nearly a year and I feel great. As parents, spouses, etc. we need to remember that diabetes affects everyone that loves and depends on us. It will not go away if ignored. I will never forget the look of terror in my daughters' eyes as they watched their mother near death. They had to call the ambulance and watch as I was whisked away to the hospital not knowing what was happening. Adrian, I hope your father reads this and starts taking care of himself. Good luck.

Posted by Anonymous on 14 May 2012

thanks for this. I was diagnosed in 2009 and I was only 37! But sometimes I feel like your dad, like I don't care about my health. I do keep wishing it would go away if I ignore it!

My husband does care now and your words also are inspiring, thanks for pushing on.

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