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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. 3: Help Make Time for Exercise

''One of the biggest issues about exercise is time,'' Funnell says. ''To nag somebody to exercise --but not offer to do those things that free them up to exercise -- doesn't work.''

A husband whose wife has diabetes can help her to carve out exercise time by running extra errands, watching the children, or picking them up from day care so she can hit the gym after work. Or he could offer to exercise with her to boost motivation.

Or do what the Prices do: Make exercise a priority. On weekends, they schedule it before any other events.

Diabetes Support Tip No. 4: Educate Yourself

Learn as much as you can about diabetes, Weiss says. Knowledge is crucial if your spouse has severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can lead to seizures, coma, or even death.

''It's very frightening for family members and often for the person with diabetes,'' Funnell says. ''Know what to do because that helps you to stay less panicked.'' Learn how to give glucose tablets, orange juice, or regular soda to raise blood sugar.

When Weiss goes out with her husband, she keeps glucose tablets with her, especially after he once passed out at a restaurant from hypoglycemia. Call 911 if a partner with diabetes loses consciousness, Funnell says.

Diabetes Support Tip No. 5: Be Prepared for Mood Swings

Low blood sugar can cause those with diabetes, especially if they're on insulin, to feel nervous, weak, confused, and irritable. Mood swings are common.

''Know that as the spouse, you will probably become the target of those swings. But understand that it's not personal,'' Weiss says.

But if mood swings become more frequent or intense, talk to your spouse about seeking counseling to look for underlying psychological distress, she adds.

Diabetes Support Tip No. 6. If Sexual Problems Arise, Talk About It

Don't ignore the damage diabetes can do to sexual relationships, Funnell says. Between 35% and 50% of men with diabetes struggle with erectile dysfunction, according to the National Institutes of Health. Wives have told Funnell, '''All of a sudden, he doesn't kiss me anymore, he doesn't hold my hand,' and they miss that. A lot of them say they miss that more than the actual sexual activity.''

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