Background: Increased social support positively influences self-management of diabetes, but limited data exist documenting the specific roles that family caregivers assume in supporting adults with diabetes. Moreover, explanations for why caregivers take on certain roles has received little attention. Understanding what roles caregivers fill and why is critical to informing and targeting services aimed at improving caregiver competency in promoting diabetes self-management for their loved ones.

Methods: To characterize caregivers’ roles in supporting adults’ self-management of diabetes, as well as reasons for assuming those roles, 31 one-on-one, in-depth, semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with adults with type 2 diabetes (n=19) and their family caregivers (n=12). Two coders independently reviewed transcripts from interview audio recordings in NVivo 12 Pro using interpretive phenomenological data analysis.

Findings: Adults and their caregivers described three central roles of caregivers in diabetes self-management: care organizer, health motivator, and medication tracker. Caregivers also recognized another prominent role, knowledge seeker. Two explanations for assuming specified roles emerged: changes in health and healthcare expertise. Caregivers reported taking on care roles because their loved one experienced a health problem that required medical or surgical attention. Some adults described turning to caregivers for diabetes management support because their family member had a healthcare background, such as a nurse or paramedic.

Conclusion: These adult and caregiver perspectives shed light on what roles families assume in supporting diabetes self-management and why. Information gleaned from this study may help healthcare providers target support for family roles to enhance caregivers’ ability to help adults with diabetes management.


B. Fields: None. K.L. Rodriguez: None. L.K. Makaroun: None. C.H. Robinson: None. J. Forman: None. A. Rosland: None.


Ann Arbor VA Center for Clinical Management Research; Michigan Center for Diabetes Translational Research (5P60-DK09292)

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