Supporting a Loved One with Diabetes
With diabetes affecting about 29 million Americans, chances are good you know at least one of them. If someone close to you is newly diagnosed, or has been living with diabetes, you’ve got a wonderful opportunity to become an ally. You don’t have to be a medical expert. You just need to be aware, be in the know, be positive, and be a good listener.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “support can help make the difference between your friend or family member feeling overwhelmed or empowered.” It can also make the difference between you feeling helpless and feeling that what you do really matters.
Someone Else’s Shoes
Although we may be familiar with the activities and rituals that come with diabetes—testing blood sugar, taking medicine or administering insulin, and preparing for highs or lows in blood glucose levels—it’s not the same as experiencing it personally. Mary Ellen Phipps is a registered dietitian nutritionist who not only specializes in diabetes but lives with the condition herself. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child.
On her blog, Milk & Honey Nutrition, Mary Ellen explains why it’s so important to have someone in your life who cares and understands. “Living with diabetes,” she says, “can be overwhelming and exhausting, frustrating, and confusing, and hard to handle at times. But it can also be fine and simple some days too. Each day is different, and most of us have a core group of people we rely on for support and to help us get through those tougher-to-handle days, weeks, and months.”
Communication is probably the most important attribute in a diabetes ally. Be sure to think before you speak. That means avoiding comments like, “Are you sure you should be eating that?” or “Oh, I can’t watch. I could never stick myself with a needle!” Diabetes is a chronic condition that can be difficult to manage. It is important to discuss with loved ones ways that you can support them on their journey. No matter how much you want someone to stay healthy and avoid complications, badgering them is unlikely to change their mind, and over time it can drive a wedge between you.
Sometimes a person with diabetes—like anyone—just wants to talk. You may be asked for your opinion, but often you’ll be expected to listen without trying to solve anything. That can be hard, but it is critical.
Another way you can show support is by showing patience. This is especially true when someone is first getting used to living with diabetes. Mood swings, frustrations, fears, and blood sugar lows can all take a toll. Diabetes is a condition in which the patient must work with their care team to learn the skills needed to successfully manage their condition. This probably won’t happen overnight. You’ll also need to be patient when it comes to the time it takes to learn the steps involved in managing diabetes and then to make those steps a part of your daily routine. Checking blood sugar, exercising, and preparing the right foods takes discipline and some time to learn how to manage effectively.
Try to avoid comments like, “Are you sure you should be eating that?” or “Oh, I can’t watch. I could never stick myself with a needle!”
More Tips for Diabetes Advocates
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can be serious and needs to be treated ASAP. Among signs to look for are shakiness, sweating or chills, irritability, dizziness and difficulty concentrating, hunger or nausea, and blurred vision. Become familiar with your loved one’s treatment plan as they discussed it with their healthcare provider.
Don’t beat around the bush—ask how you can help and listen to the response. Whether it’s a medication reminder, finding some good low-carb recipes, making a doctor’s appointment for them, or something else, be ready to jump in.
Celebrate your loved one’s wins and provide support when things are going less well. Stress can make it more difficult to manage diabetes well so see what you can do to help your loved one keep theirs under control.
This might mean going along to a doctor’s appointment or diabetes support group. Or maybe just calling after an appointment to see how it went.
Be a role model.
Show support by modeling healthy choices like not smoking, avoiding excess sugar and fat, eating more fruits and vegetables, and getting the right amount of exercise.
Be a resource.
Depending on your relationship to the person living with diabetes, you may feel comfortable making some gentle suggestions, like a restaurant that you know offers healthy choices or some new walking trails you can enjoy together.
Of course, if your loved one is a child, you’ll be directly involved in daily care, including monitoring medication, preparing meals, blood sugar checks, coordinating with the child’s school, and attending doctor’s appointments. Parents should be full partners in the care of their kids with diabetes. As children age, however, it’s important to encourage self-care so can begin to take responsibility for their own health.
Support can help make the difference between your friend or family member feeling overwhelmed or empowered.
It’s About You, Too
Though your blood sugar may be totally normal, you’re affected when someone close to you has diabetes. You may feel sad when they’re down and feel helpless that you can’t do more to help. While you can’t change your loved one’s condition, you can be someone they turn to for encouragement, understanding, and support, which may help you both feel better and stay healthier. The American Diabetes Association has some additional tips for caregivers that may help.
The Practical Stuff
One of the best ways to help someone with diabetes is to reduce their stress and save them time. That’s exactly what happens when you sign up for home-delivered diabetes supplies like monitors, lancets, test strips, Continuous Glucose Monitors, or inulin pumps from Home Care Delivered. We handle the paperwork and communicate with the insurance provider – Medicare, Medicaid, or a commercial carrier. And we carry top CGM brands like the Dexcom G6 and Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 14 day and FreeStyle Libre 2.
Then there’s our friendly, knowledgeable customer care team. They know the right questions to ask, they’ve got answers to questions you might have, and they take the time to get it right. HCD even has a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) on staff to help answer questions and review orders to ensure we get it right every time.
It’s easy to get started at 804-885-4101. If you’d rather, you can enter a phone number on the bottom left of the screen and we’ll be in touch promptly. HCD salutes all the awesome diabetes allies and advocates out there—you make a difference every day!
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Unless otherwise noted, the recommendations in this document were obtained from the sources indicated. Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only. HCD cannot be held responsible for the continued accuracy of or for any errors or omissions in the information. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.