Helping a Loved One With Diabetes

Diabetes can be a demanding disease to manage. People who have the condition must constantly watch what they eat, check their blood sugar levels regularly, and take medication to keep those levels steady. If you’re close to someone who has diabetes, there are ways you can help.

Learn about the disease. There are lots of myths and wrong ideas about diabetes. For example, it’s not true that a major sweet tooth can lead to the condition, or that it’s unsafe for people who have it to exercise.

Learn how diabetes works, how to prevent emergencies or complications, and other information so you can be useful. Maybe ask your loved one if you can tag along to a doctor’s appointment.

Make it a team effort. A diabetes diagnosis is a chance for the whole household to start some healthy habits. Get everyone to get onboard with nutritious meals, quitting smoking, and staying active.

Know when to step back. Remember that the person who has diabetes is responsible for managing it, not you. Don’t second-guess the care plan or try to police meals or snacks. Living with diabetes is hard work, and encouragement and support are better than unwanted advice or, worse, scolding.

Help ease stress. Too much stress can raise blood sugar levels and make it harder to control diabetes. But managing the condition can be stressful. Encourage your loved one to talk about feelings and frustrations. Try things together like meditating, walking, gardening, or watching a funny movie.

Expect mood swings. Swings in blood sugar can make someone jittery, confused, anxious, or irritable. Better blood sugar control can help avoid these ups and downs. Offer emotional support, and encourage your loved one to join a support group or talk about professional counseling if you think that might help.

Talk openly about any bedroom issues. Diabetes can affect many parts of the body, including sexual organs. Women with diabetes are more likely to have vaginal and urinary tract infections, while problems like nerve damage can cause vaginal dryness and make sex uncomfortable or even painful. Men who have diabetes are more likely to have erectile dysfunction. Sometimes, having diabetes can affect self-esteem, which can make someone less interested in sex.

Be honest about any problems, and encourage your partner to talk with a doctor about any issues.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on April 27, 2019

Sources

Joslin Diabetes Center: “Resources for Friends and Family: How to Support Your Loved One with Diabetes,” “Four Myths About Diabetes.”

American Diabetes Association: “8 Tips for Caregivers,” “Depression.”

FamilyDoctor.org: “Helping a Family Member Who Has Diabetes.”

Mayo Clinic: “Tips for Diabetes Caregivers," “Stress, Illness, and High Blood Sugar.”

Harvard Health: “5 Ways to De-Stress and Help Your Heart.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Get Off the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster.” 

Cleveland Clinic: “Diabetes: Stress & Depression.”

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: “Adult Type 1 Toolkit.”

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