MountainStar Health - September 04, 2018

Daughter and granddaughter visiting their kind grandfather.

Learn how to support a diabetic

Diabetes affects almost ten percent of the U.S. population, including children, and managing the disease can be an overwhelming task. Any assistance a loved one can provide can make a positive difference. Family and friends are as much a part of the process as the person with diabetes. Below are a few ways you can offer your aid if you have a loved one with diabetes.

Create routines and plans

Diet and exercise play a crucial role in managing diabetes. Working together to make healthful changes has shown to be successful. Ask if you can help create a meal plan and exercise regimen you both can do together.  Lifestyle changes are actually good for everybody, not just those with diabetes.

Be patient

Again, managing diabetes can be overwhelming, and lifestyle changes do not happen overnight. Taking the small step approach is the easiest way to make permanent life style changes.  Focusing on improving one thing at a time allows your loved one to be successful at it with positive results. Always be sympathetic and avoid nagging, as it will only lead to more frustration.  Stay positive. There is no reason to look negatively on things we cannot change. Acknowledge the management of diabetes is a lot of work.  Recognize and appreciate how hard he/she works at dealing with the daily task of managing diabetes.

Offer reminders

Do not be the "diabetes police" by telling them what to do. Ask your loved one if he/she would like to be reminded when to take their medication and check their blood sugar regularly.  It is human nature to want to tell your loved ones what to do.  More times than not it is more harmful than helpful to relationships and the management of diabetes.  Let them know you are willing to be a steady presence and source of support but will need their consent first.  Know when to step back and allow your loved one to make their own choices.

Be there

Ask how you can help. Check first what your loved one wants.  Statements like "I would like to be there for you by taking you to your doctors' appointment" is a good place to start. You show your support just by being there, listening to concerns and learning about diabetes.  Doing things together that you both enjoy also strengthens your relationship and builds trust.  It also, does not hurt to send encouraging notes and offer plenty of hugs.  Healthy relationships are helpful in managing diabetes both short and long term.  By going to appointments, you can also hear any recommendations or requests the provider may have that your loved one may not remember after the visit. Offer to schedule appointments or keep a log of concerns you or your loved one have throughout the week and discuss them with the physician.

Understand the basics

Be knowledgeable on the disease. Understanding the side effects, challenges and treatments associated with diabetes is essential when caring for a loved one with the disease.  Help them deal with the situation in the moment because diabetes can be frustrating and getting upset or blaming does not help.  Variables in blood sugars can cause irritability and anxiety.  Expect mood swings especially during times of stress. Encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings and frustrations. Try stress-relieving activities together like mediating, deep breathing or going on a walk.  Understand that sometimes it is necessary to go to a support group together or seek profession counseling.

Help them find what is right for them

You can do a lot for someone with diabetes by helping him or her find a routine that works for him or her. Even though they have a common disease, they are a unique person with unique needs.   Diabetes management is going to be very different depending on their situation. Make an effort to be adaptable to their needs and to be willing to try new things if the current system just is not working.  Remember to ask your loved one, "How can we do this as a team"? Remember one small change can make a big difference.

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