November is American Diabetes Month. Supportive family and friends provide a positive impact on those affected by diabetes. But what might seem like helping can sometimes derail health efforts and cause friction in a relationship. What can you do for loved ones with diabetes?
Avoid offering advice unless asked. Commenting on someone's personal habits, diabetes or not, can be hurtful. It's better to attend a diabetes class or read more about the condition on reputable Web sites like the American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org) to stayed informed about how to help with your loved one's condition. Unsolicited advice is rarely welcome.
Avoid telling horror stories about someone you know with diabetes. Diabetes is already scary enough, but people with well-managed glucose can live long, healthy lives. Providing emotional support is a better strategy than chiming in about how an acquaintance went blind from diabetes.
Avoid commenting on glucose numbers. Glucose readings are private unless a person with diabetes decides to share. Similarly, would you want someone to ask about your weight or cholesterol numbers and then make a comment about it? Glucose numbers aren't always going to hit the normal mark. Disparaging comments can add to frustration already felt.
Realize that managing diabetes is hard work. People with diabetes have to incorporate multiple tasks into their day: monitoring glucose, planning meals, managing diabetes supplies, attending doctor visits, taking medications, and injecting insulin. These tasks on top of demands of work, school and family can be a challenge.
Ask how you might be helpful. Diabetes does not take a vacation. Diabetes is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured. Provide a lift from the daily burden of diabetes and offer to help with meals, take a walk together, assist with glucose checks, pick up prescriptions or give an insulin injection.
Join in efforts to make healthy lifestyle changes and support efforts for self-care. Healthy eating and exercise are beneficial for every one of all ages, not just someone with diabetes.
Adopted from the work of Dr. William Polonsky, PhD, CDE
Pam Noonan is the diabetes educator at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation