One of the best ways to predict how well someone will manage diabetes: how much support they get from family and friends.
Daily diabetes care is a lot to handle, from taking meds, injecting insulin, and checking blood sugar to eating healthy food, being physically active, and keeping health care appointments. Your support can help make the difference between your friend or family member feeling overwhelmed or empowered.
What You Can Do
- Learn about diabetes. Find out why and when blood sugar should be checked, how to recognize and handle highs and lows (more below), what lifestyle changes are needed, and where to go for information and help.
- Know diabetes is individual. Each person who has diabetes is different, and their treatment plan needs to be customized to their specific needs. It may be very different from that of other people you know with diabetes.
- Ask your friend or relative how you can help, and then listen to what they say. They may want reminders and assistance (or may not), and that can change over time.
- Go to appointments if it’s OK with your relative or friend. You could learn more about how diabetes affects them and how you can be the most helpful.
- Give them time in the daily schedule so they can manage their diabetes—check blood sugar, make healthy food, take a walk.
- Avoid blame. People with diabetes are often overweight, but being overweight is just one of several factors that can lead to diabetes. And blood sugar levels can be hard to control even with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Diabetes is complicated!
- Step back. You may share the same toothpaste, but your family member may not want to share everything about managing diabetes with you. The same goes for a friend with diabetes.
- Accept the ups and downs. Moods can change with blood sugar levels, from happy to sad to irritable. It might just be the diabetes talking, but ask your friend or relative tell their health care team if they feel sad on most days—it could be depression.
- Be encouraging. Tell them you know how hard they’re trying. Remind them of their successes. Point out how proud you are of their progress.
- Walk the talk. Follow the same healthy food and fitness plan as your loved one; it’s good for your health, too. Lifestyle changes become habits more easily when you do them together.
- Help them feel the power to manage their diabetes.
- Nervousness or anxiety.
- Sweating, chills, or clamminess.
- Irritability or impatience.
- Dizziness and difficulty concentrating.
- Hunger or nausea.
- Blurred vision.
- Weakness or fatigue.
- Anger, stubbornness, or sadness.Know the lows. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be dangerous and needs to be treated immediately. Symptoms vary, so be sure to know your friend’s or relative’s particular signs, which could include
If your family member or friend has hypoglycemia several times a week, suggest that he or she talk with his or her health care team to see if the treatment plan needs to be adjusted.
- Offer to help them connect with other people who share their experience. Online resources such as the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ Diabetes Online Community[1.27 MB] or in-person diabetes support groups are good ways to get started.
The most important thing is quality of life, yours and theirs. Sure, there will be highs and lows—blood sugar and otherwise—but together you can help make diabetes a part of life, instead of life feeling like it’s all about diabetes.