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6 Ways to Support a Spouse With Diabetes

Experts and people who've been there offer tips on how to support a partner with diabetes -- without nagging.

Diabetes Support Tip No. 1: Offer Help, but Don't Be the Diabetes Police continued...

To cope, ''I think it's critical to talk with your spouse about what kind of diabetes support he or she needs from you -- and what you need from your spouse that will help you live with diabetes,'' Weiss says.

That may mean compromise. For example, the Weisses struggled over Michael's 6-10 daily blood glucose checks. She wanted to know the exact numbers. He resented the intrusion.

The couple finally struck a balance. ''I needed to know that he was OK. I was allowed to ask that, but I wasn't allowed to ask what his numbers were,'' she says. When to reveal a reading? His choice alone.

Martha Funnell, MS, RN, CDE, a clinical nurse specialist at the Michigan Diabetes and Research Training Center, agrees with the approach. ''As much as you love your spouse, ultimately, diabetes belongs to them.''

Diabetes Support Tip No. 2: Adopt Healthy Habits for the Whole Household

Weiss started paying more attention to portion control and healthier meals. The whole family started to eat what Michael ate so that he wouldn't feel different. Weiss also bought diabetes cookbooks to support their new way of eating.

Diabetes cooking classes can be helpful, too. But for some families, these steps aren't practical, Funnell says.

''Everybody wants cookbooks, but in reality, most people cook the same seven meals over and over again,'' she says. In that case, a dietitian can give advice on how to adapt familiar recipes into healthier versions. He or she can also teach about proper serving sizes.

Tony Price, an American Diabetes Association spokesman in California who has type 1 diabetes, says his wife, Connie Cox Price, helps him to count carbohydrates at restaurants. She also scours the menu for hidden ingredients, such as plum sauce in Chinese food, that can raise glucose levels. ''Those things just sneak up on you,'' she says.

Another tip: Don't tempt your spouse with forbidden foods, Funnell says. ''Don't sit there and eat three gallons of ice cream in front of them and yell at them for eating the same thing.''

Don't even bring junk food into the home, Weiss adds.

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