How to Adjust to Life With Diabetes

How to Involve Your Friends and Family in Your Diabetes Care

©2006 Publications International, Ltd.Because diabetes will affect so many areas of your life, it is important to have your family supporting you.

To really ensure a successful diabetes treatment plan, it's important to have the support of the people in your life. While your diabetes care will ultimately start and depend on you, we all need a helping hand. As a patient, you cannot rely on your doctor for everything. Eventually, you will need the people who love you to carry some of the burden.

Make It a a Family Affair

Diabetes is called a family disease because it affects every family member. Food selection and preparation as well as the timing of meals are important aspects of family life. The need for medication and avoidance of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) can take away some spontaneity from meals. Dining out presents a whole new challenge. Your diabetes management affects your family in other ways, too. They undoubtedly have feelings about your health, ranging from concern and sympathy to guilt and resentment. They may also worry about their own susceptibility to diabetes. Perhaps your treatment affects your family financially. Perhaps you require your family's help to pick up (or even administer) your medication or drive you to appointments with your doctor or diabetes educator. Recognize that the more your family members know about diabetes control, the more you all benefit. To get your family involved:

  • Ask family members to attend diabetes education classes with you. Their direct participation involves them more effectively than your simply explaining what was taught, and they have the opportunity to ask questions of the instructor. Discuss what each of you learned, and ask your educator to clarify any discrepancies.
  • Provide your family with reading materials. Encourage them to join the American Diabetes Association.
  • Practice skills at home with your family: Perform finger sticks for blood glucose, inject saline into an orange or doll, and review the treatment for hypoglycemia so family members can understand what you go through and also carry out these acts in case of emergency.
  • Make sure family members know your meal and medication schedule. Tell them how you plan to handle any schedule changes so they're prepared in the event of complications.
  • Encourage any family member who is having trouble coping with your having diabetes to seek counseling to discuss his or her feelings and/or anxieties.

Teach Your FriendsSome people are reluctant to tell others about their diabetes care needs. But friends who care can help you stay on top of your program. Friends will take their attitude about diabetes from you. If you see it as a stigma, they may be reluctant to help you. On the other hand, if they see you taking charge of your condition and talking about it openly and honestly, they will feel more confident about helping you remain in control.

Friends won't know how they can support you unless you tell them. Here are ways to help your friends understand the role of diabetes in your life:

  • Let others know how they can help you: "It really helps me when I see you order healthy foods off the menu first..." Let them know how you feel about them eating sweet foods and desserts in front of you. Some people find it difficult to not eat what everyone else has; others don't mind at all when their friends have sweet foods. Clear the air with your friends, and cast off everyone's uncertainty about what to do.
  • Encourage your friends to jump on the bandwagon. Everyone can -- and should -- eat a low-fat, well-balanced diet. Explain that just because you have diabetes, you needn't eat foods that are "different" from what everyone else is eating. The healthful behaviors you adopt to control diabetes and your weight are elements of a healthy lifestyle everyone can participate in.
  • Prompt a friend to join you in an exercise or weight control program.
  • Describe the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and how to treat it. Show friends where you keep treatment supplies, such as glucose tablets, juice, candy, or a Glucagon emergency kit, and explain how much of each you should receive in the event you do not recognize the signs yourself.
  • Show friends where you carry your emergency phone numbers. Keep a list posted near your phone so visitors can find the numbers easily.
  • Engage your friends in diabetes-related activities through the ADA or JDRFI. Ask your friends to participate in a fund-raiser walk with you.

Once you have your diabetes support group in place, there are other steps you can take to make sure your plan for care succeeds. On the next page, we will learn how to track the progress you've made. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.