The support that people with diabetes get from family and friends makes a difference. A strong support network can encourage and lead to better diabetes management and be the difference between your loved one with diabetes feeling overwhelmed and feeling empowered.
If you have a loved one living with diabetes, it’s natural for you to worry about their health and well-being. Family members and friends often struggle to figure out exactly how they can help loved ones with diabetes. It’s not uncommon for diabetes caregivers to fear that they will do or say the wrong thing.
Allow the following tips to help you on your way to being the best diabetes caregiver you can be! Learn how to offer care, kindness, and comfort as you tame the diabetes monster together.
Tip #1 – Learn as Much as You Can
Educate yourself! Learn as much as you can about diabetes. That way, you are better prepared and more informed to offer help and support. Learn the terminology, know why checking blood sugar is essential to management, subscribe to DOC (diabetes online communities) articles, read blogs, sign up for diabetes education classes and support groups. There are so many free resources available to help familiarize yourself with the community. Not only will you know more, but it will mean so much to your loved one to know that you’ve made the effort.
Tip #2 – Understand the Ups and Downs
Understand and try to empathize with the wide range of emotions that come with managing a chronic illness. Diabetes is complicated. Heck, even those people with diabetes that seem to have it all together get frustrated when numbers and monitoring doesn’t add up. Don’t take it
personally if your loved one is irritable. Try to show compassion and lend a listening ear when the ups and downs occur. However, if your loved one often feels sad or overwhelmed, encourage them to talk to their health care team.¹
Tip #3 – Make Lifestyle Changes Together
Encouraging changes to the lifestyle of your loved one with diabetes is a good start, but joining them in the journey makes it that much better. It’s all about moral support. For people with diabetes, it is easier to make changes when someone’s walking alongside them, experiencing the same new adventure. You can even follow the same healthy eating and exercise plan as your loved one with diabetes. The fact that it’s also great for your health is an added bonus!
Set goals and practice them together. Why not head out for a walk in the evening before you sit down and watch your favorite shows? Try out new, healthy recipes together. Instead of nagging them about their diet and activity levels, do these things together! Making changes together is super encouraging and makes it easier to turn small actions into lifestyle habits. Go team!
Tip #4 – Know the Signs of Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar needs to be treated quickly, so it’s important that you learn to recognize the signs. Symptoms can vary from person to person, but common signs of low blood sugar include:²
● Chills, sweating, clamminess
● Fatigue or weakness
● Impatience or irritability
● Stubbornness, sadness, unexpected anger
● Difficulty concentrating
● Blurred vision
● Nausea or hunger
● Anxiety or nervousness
Tip #5 – Offer to Go Along to Doctor’s Appointments
Offering to go with your loved one to their doctors’ appointments is a wonderful way to show support. While they might be alright on their own, simply offering your company is an act of solidarity itself. Not only can you be there to offer support, but also you can learn more about how their diabetes affects them. Take notes during appointments, be attentive, and even ask questions to learn more from the health care team.
Tip #6 – Keep Encouraging Your Loved One
Be your loved one’s cheerleader. If they’re having a rough day, remind them of all the successes they have had along the way. Point out their progress and achievements, both big and small. When they are frustrated and upset, be the voice that keeps motivating them.³ Taking a moment to say, “you’re doing great, and I’m proud of you,” can change their whole outlook as they work hard to manage their diabetes. Gimme a “G!” Gimme an “R!” Gimme an “E!” Gimme an “A!” Gimme an “T!” Gimme a “J!” Gimme an “O!” Gimme a “B!”
Tip #7 – Ask How You Can Help
Everyone is unique, and so is their diabetes. One of the best things you can do is to ask your relative or friend exactly how you can help. Pay attention to what they say. Some people may find reminders to stick to their management plan helpful. Others may want some support at doctor’s appointments. Your loved one may even prefer that you give them a little space. But remember, their needs can change over time, so check in from time to time to find out what kind of support they could use from you.⁴
All of the information in this article is based on the following sources:
1. TCOYD, 2020. How to Support Your Loved One With Diabetes. [webpage] Available at: https://tcoyd.org/2017/11/how-to-support-your-loved-one-with-diabetes/ [Accessed 19/01/2021].
2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020. Friends, Family & Diabetes. [webpage] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/family-friends-diabetes.html [Accessed 19/01/2021].
3. American Diabetes Association, 2020. Loved Ones. [webpage] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/loved-ones [Accessed 19/01/2021].
4. Mayo Clinic, 2020. Caring for a loved one with diabetes. [webpage] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/caring-for-a-lov ed-one-with-diabetes/faq-20424136-- [Accessed 18/01/2021].
The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.