While a diabetes diagnosis is tough for the patient receiving the diagnosis, it can also be a downer for loved ones. No one wants to see their friends or family members struggle with a disease. If your loved one has been diagnosed, your first inclination is probably to help them. Here are some ways to go about that, because it can be a tricky situation.
Do Some Research and Talk with Your Loved One
It will likely be hard to help someone with diabetes if you don’t have a basic understanding of the disease. Research the disease to learn about diabetes and how it can be monitored and kept in check. Take a diabetes class with your loved one so you can learn together.
It’s also important to talk with your loved one about how they’re managing the disease. Diabetes affects every person differently, so talking to your loved one about how it affects them and what they can do to control it is going to be key if you’re going to support them.
Also, familiarize yourself with their personal symptoms for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). It’s also a good idea to find out where their medication is stored and what you should do if they need you to intervene in the event he or she becomes unable to self-administer their medication.
Help but within Reason
You’re worried for your loved one’s well-being, and that’s only natural. Avoid hounding them to check sugar levels constantly, or reminding them that certain foods are off limits every day. They know it. Nagging will only cause friction. Instead, look for new, healthy recipes to try. Suggest a walk or bike ride together, or some other activity your loved one would enjoy and do.
This seems simple, but it’s often the most important job you can have as the friend or loved one of a patient with diabetes. Ask them how they need you. They might want someone to remind them to take their medicine, or help get them to doctor’s appointments, or make sure they don’t have any wounds that need to be attended to. But what they might want more is someone who will listen to them when they need encouragement about managing the stress the disease can cause. Diabetes causes major life changes and sometimes those changes are more difficult than managing the disease itself. Find out what they personally need from you. Everybody’s version of diabetes is a little bit different, so stay flexible and help them the way they need it.
Dr. Oliver Wu is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Clear Lake Clinic. His clinical interests include adult medicine, preventive care, men’s health, diabetes and hypertension.