How Family Members Can Help with Diabetes ManagementOctober 18, 2019
How Family Members Can Help with Diabetes Management
Diabetes has been called a family disease - when one person is diagnosed, family and close friends also can be affected. It's natural to want to be supportive when someone you love has a chronic medical condition. The first step is to learn what you can about the disease. Then take some time to communicate the support you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Understanding Diabetes Basics
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different diseases. However, both involve the body's inability to process sugar - also called glucose - in the blood. This means cells aren't getting the energy they need, and that excess glucose builds up in the blood. Serious health problems can result, including:
- Nerve damage
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
Family members are an important source of support for people managing diabetes. Start by letting them know your condition doesn't have to stand in the way of an active life. By managing diabetes through a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can better maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Your family can help by:
- Eating together. A meal that’s healthy for someone with diabetes is also healthy for everyone else. Family-friendly diabetic recipes can include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein such as fish and poultry.
- Exercising together. Physical activity is important to staying healthy with diabetes. Having an exercise buddy can motivate you to get up and keep moving. Walking, jogging, swimming and dancing all can be a part of this program – and all can be more enjoyable as a family activity.
- Recognizing possible problems. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can cause frequent urination, extreme thirst, blurry vision and fatigue. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause fatigue, inability to speak or think clearly, sweating, twitching and passing out. A sudden drop in blood sugar can be especially dangerous. Ask your loved ones to keep a supply of sugary candy handy, in case you show signs of hypoglycemia. They should also call for medical help if this occurs.
How Not to Help
Supporting your efforts to manage diabetes doesn't mean hovering or being judgmental. A loved one might think their advice or gentle criticism will be helpful, but it might just cause you more stress. Here are some thoughts you might share if you're facing such a situation:
- Nagging doesn’t help. Criticizing you for your menu choices or exercise habits can actually lead to more unhealthy behavior. Instead, ask them to provide encouragement and support when you make healthier choices.
- Their own diet can be a problem. Having separate meals prepared for you can lead to you feeling isolated. Instead, consider stocking the kitchen with food that’s healthy for everyone in the house. You’ll all be improving your diet and you will feel more included.
- Take the lead. If you’re an older teen or adult, you can make your own diabetes-management decisions. Ask your family to ask you what they can do to help, instead of trying to control your behavior.