Rocky has helped care for his 86-year-old mother ever since her type 2 diabetes led to a heart attack.
A little loving support can go a long way—that’s something NCIS star Rocky Carroll knows all too well. He’s been his 86-year-old mother Ruby’s “rock” ever since her type 2 diabetes led to a heart attack three years ago.
He plays hard-boiled investigator Leon Vance on CBS’s NCIS and NCIS-Los Angeles, but don’t let that fool you. Beneath Rocky Carroll’s stoic persona is a softie with an instinct for helping others heal. And these days, mom Ruby is the biggest beneficiary.
Making a decision
In Christmas 2008, while visiting Rocky and his family—which includes wife, Gabrielle, and daughter, Elissa—in L.A., Ruby suffered a serious heart attack. For decades, she’d been coping with type 2 diabetes, and now it had come to this. Right then and there, Rocky made a decision: There was no way Mom was going back to Ohio.
“Up until that moment, my mom had been living alone [since my father died],” Rocky says. “But that 10-day visit turned into a permanent relocation. Now she lives seven minutes away from our home, and this allows us to help her out and to see her more often.”
Granted, it took some convincing to get her to make L.A. her new home. Today, three years later, there’s no doubt she’s happier—and healthier—for it. Multiple studies have proven that people with diabetes are able to enjoy more stable blood sugar levels when they have the support of family and friends. In fact, the strength of the support network is an important factor in how well a person with diabetes will take care of himself or herself, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. On the flip side, a study in Diabetes Care showed that people with diabetes who lack a network of love and support have poorer blood sugar control.
Luckily for Ruby, Rocky is totally devoted—and doesn’t hide it. His blog is peppered with references to his mom:
“My mother’s doing pretty good.”
“Spent a very nice Easter weekend with my mother.”
“Between taking care of my mother (she’s doing okay, for those of you who remember) and working on both NCIS shows, I’ve had very little time to do much else.”
“Thank you for all of your well wishes for my mother. I told her there’s a wonderful community of folks that I chat with via the Internet who are pulling for her.”
Of course, no one is pulling harder for Ruby than Rocky, Gabrielle and Elissa. Here, Rocky shares some TLC tips for motivating someone you love to take better care of her diabetes:
Let her know you’re counting on her.
“I regularly tell my mom I need her around, and there are stories only she can tell my daughter,” says Rocky. “Her memory is good, and we laugh a lot about the past. I also learn things about her youth that I never knew.” Letting your loved one know how much she matters is a simple way to bolster her esteem and motivate her to comply with her treatment—without having to nag. And there’s a bonus: People with chronic conditions who feel needed and valued generally have a more positive view, accept aging and its changes, and feel healthier.
Dish out healthy food for the whole family.
“We invite my mom to spend the day with us,” says Rocky, who notes that the meals they cook up include lots of fresh veggies, whole grains and lean protein. That means everyone at the table enjoys well-balanced meals. Bottom line: Everyone eats healthfully, and Ruby isn’t made to feel like she’s a bother.
Keep things upbeat.
Luckily, Rocky doesn’t have to work too hard at keeping Ruby’s spirits high. “My mom has been through a lot with her diabetes—she lost a leg several years ago and has been wheelchair-bound for about seven years—yet she’s never lost her positive attitude,” says Rocky. “Staying optimistic is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from her.” What to do if you’re caring for a loved one who’s not a natural optimist? Help her see the silver lining. Try saying, “Isn’t it nice that we’re spending more time together?” Encourage her to pursue a goal, like knitting a scarf or reading several books by a favorite author. If she seems sad or anxious, let her know it’s okay to vent. Ask, “Is there something on your mind?” Talking can help to relieve stress.
It’s hard for Ruby to get around, but Rocky takes the initiative by making appointments for her and getting her places so she doesn’t even have to ask for help—something that’s hard for many people with chronic health conditions. “Once a week I pick her up and we go out...shopping, lunch, trips to the hairdresser,” he says. It’s a fun outing and a special time for just the two of them.