Managing type 1 diabetes involves coordinating complex daily behaviors that may rely on the cognitive abilities of people with diabetes (PWD) and spouses, especially as couples collaborate surrounding diabetes care. The aims of the study were to examine whether 1) the cognitive abilities of PWD and their spouses predicted lower A1C, 2) collaborating with a spouse with higher cognitive abilities was especially beneficial for PWD with lower cognitive abilities, and 3) the benefit of the cognitive abilities of PWD and their spouse occurred through better self-care. Couples (n = 199) were recruited with one member diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (PWD 52% female sex, average age 46.81 years, average duration of diabetes 27 years; spouses 48% female sex; average age 46.40 years). PWD and spouses completed fluid (trail making tests from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System) and crystallized (information subtest from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th edition) ability tests. PWD rated their spouse’s collaboration in diabetes and reported self-care behaviors through surveys. A1C was assessed as a measure of blood glucose through a blood assay. Multiple regressions revealed that spouses’ crystallized ability was the only statistically significant predictor, with higher values associated with lower A1C (t = −2.17, P <0.05). The interaction of crystallized ability of PWD × spouse crystallized ability × collaboration indicated that PWD with lower ability tended to benefit more when they collaborated with a spouse who scored higher in ability (t = −2.21, P <0.05). Mediational analyses indicated that spouses’ crystallized ability was associated with lower A1C through better self-care behaviors of PWD (B = 0.03, SE = 0.01, P <0.01). We conclude that PWD benefit from the cognitive abilities of their spouses through better self-care behaviors that are important for maintaining lower A1C across adulthood.

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