How to Help People with Diabetes

A Guide for Aiding People Who are Having Diabetes Management Challenges

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How do you help a friend, relative or loved one with type 2 diabetes who needs help to start or improve their diabetes management? Here are some ideas for those of you that want to know how to help people with diabetes

This can be a difficult task to undertake. The wrong approach can make a person with diabetes feel pressured, patronized, misunderstood, and depressed. The end result could be the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.

Diabetes is a complicated disease that takes a lot of time, research, and education to fully understand. Living with diabetes is like trying to juggle balls with your hands and plates with your feet while balancing a stick on your nose. Topics to learn about include nutrition, exercise, blood sugar level management, hormones, and much more. To make things more challenging, the diabetes landscape of knowledge, treatment, and technology is ever-changing.

A person with type 2 diabetes also deals with the stigma and misguided notion that they brought the disease upon themselves and if they were to "just" do this or "just" do that, then they wouldn't have diabetes anymore. If only it were that simple.

Because of this, a person with diabetes may become frustrated and resentful of someone who doesn't have diabetes attempting to coach them. Although the desire to help comes from the right place, you must understand that people with diabetes can feel misunderstood, lonely, and that nobody can really understand what it is like to be them.

Your Approach and Attitude

It might be helpful to acknowledge that you know having type 2 diabetes is hard, not fair, not their fault, and without easy fixes. Communicate that you both have a lot to learn and you are willing to try to help. Approach this as a learning experience that you will take together, rather than telling them what to do.

Try not to nag or be judgmental.

How to Help

The keys for successful diabetes management are good health care, education, awareness, and support. With this in mind, here are some tips and suggestions to try to help people with diabetes to become more educated, aware, and supported.

  • Learn the basics of diabetes and share resources with your loved one. There are books, groups, organizations and websites that provide information about diabetes. The internet has websites, blogs, and videos. Many online diabetes communities embrace and welcome loved ones of people with diabetes. Ask your physician where you can learn more about diabetes and ask about visiting with a diabetes educator and dietitian. Look in the health section of newspapers for diabetes groups and you can search the internet for groups in your area.
  • Accommodate their learning style. Do they prefer to read, watch videos, or interact with others? Do they have access to the internet or other educational materials that match their style?
  • Try to help in a practical way without judging. What are their challenges and what are possible solutions? Do they need rides or help with errands? Do they need help brainstorming easy ways to get or prepare diabetes-friendly meals? Would it help if you were their exercise or walking pal?
  • Encourage them to read books and articles by other patients with diabetes who have learned how to be successful with diabetes management. Seek out inspirational stories. Some pharmacies offer free magazines and books that are good sources of information and inspiration.
  • Provide avenues for self-discovery. Instead of being the bearer of bad news regarding risks and complications which can be interpreted as nagging or a scare tactic, assist them in learning on their own by providing them with information and resources that explain these things.
  • Ask if they would like you to accompany them on medical visits.
  • Encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings and seek help and support if needed. Share your feelings as well. If they are having problems with coping or become depressed, alert your doctor and ask about treatment options.
  • Locate sources of peer support for your loved one. There may be groups that meet in your area. There are also many online diabetes sites to find friends, support, and understanding.
  • Seek the advice and help of other people with type 2 diabetes. Perhaps you have a friend or a relative who has been successful with their diabetes management? Maybe they would be willing to guide or help you on your quest.

Take your time and have patience. Change tactics if needed and try to avoid overwhelming your loved one. Your efforts will be appreciated.

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