Living with diabetes not only changes the lives of the people who have diabetes but also those who are around them. People with diabetes have to constantly monitor every action: what they eat, how much they eat, how much exercise they get, when and how many times to check their blood sugar levels.
We understand how tiring all that may be to do on your own. This is why, it is important to have the support of those around you. Without the support of your loved ones, you may not hold yourself as accountable as they may for not taking good care of yourself. While it is the goal of your family members to give you as much support as they can, they might not exactly know how to do so.
If you are a family member who wants to support their loved one who has diabetes, you will find this article extremely important and helpful.
We have gathered responses from experts on how they think you can help your loved one on their journey with diabetes.
Please keep reading to find out how you can lend your support in small or big ways.
- 1. Tony A. Gaskins Jr.
- 2. Dr. Margaret Paul, PhD
- 3. Lisa Sawicki
- 4. Annette Carpien, PCC
- 5. Joanna Jana Laznicka
- 6. Laura Doyle
- 7. Kathy L. Jacobson
- 8. Brook Montagna
- 9. Poppy and Geoff Spencer, LCPC
- 10. Lynn Goodacre
- 11. Fran Greene LCSWR
- 12. Dr. Duana Welch, Ph.D
- 13. Dr. Ronna Phifer-Ritchie, PhD, CLC
- 14. Ronit Baras - Parenting Expert
- 15. Lauren Aycock Anderson, MS, LGMFT, NCC
- 16. Dr. Terri Orbuch (PhD), relationship expert, author, and professor at Oakland University (in Michigan).
- 17. Tina M. Thomas
- 18. Dr. Georgiana Spradling Ph.D., MFT, CDVC
- 19. Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
- 20. Dr. Jackie Black, Ph.D, BCC
- 21. Dr. Aaron Anderson, M.S., LMFT
- 22. Janet D Webber
- 23. Dr. Kat Van Kirk
1. Tony A. Gaskins Jr.
As the son of two diabetic parents, I understand what it's like to love someone who is struggling with an issue that seems to be bigger than you. Is love enough to inspire someone to live a healthy lifestyle? I believe you have as good of a chance as anything else.
First, you can't be an enabler. Although there may be some things your love one likes to eat and it seems so pleasurable for them, you can't trade momentary pleasure for long-term health. You have to speak up and be a voice to encourage them to eat healthy and to stay inbounds with their food choices.
Secondly, you have to inspire with love not with condemnation. Don't try to make them feel guilty. Instead inspire them with love and hope for the future. Express to them how much you love them. Tell them why you love them. Share your long term hopes and dreams with them as it pertains to them. That will give them a reason to persevere and give their all to a healthy lifestyle.
Lastly, you must lead by example. When you're close to a diabetic you may have some of the same habits and tendencies. You must make sure that you're a healthy example. You can't ask them to do as you say, but then you do the opposite. Lead by example.
- Eat healthy.
- Workout regularly.
- Sleep enough.
- Take your vitamins.
- Set the bar.
- Live life to the fullest.
2. Dr. Margaret Paul, PhD
Supporting a person with type 1 diabetes is about first, helping them to accept it. This is especially challenging for a child who just wants to be a child and not have to deal with all of this. Once there is acceptance, then the most important thing is to help them understand personal responsibility for testing and eating. Even young children can learn to take responsibility for themselves, and this is vitally important to their wellbeing. Also, becoming involved with The American Diabetes Association is very supportive.
I recommend reading the following:
Type 2 diabetes is a result of lifestyle and is preventable. Supporting them mean helping with the current research regarding diet and exercise. While family doesn't have control over the person with diabetes, they often have control over the food they have in the house. Joining the diabetic in changing their lifestyle is extremely supportive. If all members of a family join in lifestyle changes, the diabetic can often actually heal from type 2 diabetes. Again, it's a matter of helping the diabetic learn to take personal responsibility for themselves.
I also suggest that all family members take our free Inner Bonding course at http://www.innerbonding.com/welcome. This will help them begin to love themselves enough to be willing to let go of addictive eating of junk food and begin to move into a healthy lifestyle.
3. Lisa Sawicki
"Feeling Freedom Around Food"
Most people have food restrictions and food allergies today even if it is the most common one of gaining weight.
That being said, an individual(s) inside a family should never be made to feel different or high maintenance. We all have learned that each one of us has to manage food lifestyle choices. No person escapes that for physical comfort and health.
So, knowing that we are all , not just someone with diabetes are 'all on the same playing field'...make eating a healthy and desirable experience. Come from delicious 'food abundance' as opposed to 'food deprivation'.
Use color, textures, tastes, presentation, herbs and spices and variety to really give yourself the 'Gift of Food and the Gift of Eating' Keep it looking fresh, organized and easy to see and get to in your refrigerator.
Plan great meals ahead and know the restaurants that work well for everyone with all their food needs.
Make all of this a priority and a real food art project. Make it fun and embracing. Make sure you have easy healthy 'go to' snacks when you have zero energy or time to create a meal. This is hugely important to have on stock in your refrigerator and your car.
Star your new food / 'eating art 4 life ' project right now. Make time to think and prepare. Embrace it with creativity, insight and passion. We have to eat...smart. Just like anything else we have to do for our best results. If we have to eat smart then I say let it be enjoyable and delicious!
It is incredibly worth the overall healthy results and good, freeing feelings.
4. Annette Carpien, PCC
That would depend on the type of help each person wants or needs. Most likely, they want to live as full and normal a life as possible. They want to be known and related to as more than their diabetes and its potential dangers. As with all human beings, they want to be loved, respected, valued, appreciated, listened to, they still want to contribute and make a difference; they have hopes, dreams, fears, habits, strengths and challenges. If it is our spouse who is diabetic, he or she still wants to be desired. So, remember the whole person in the help you offer.
By asking general and specific questions about the type of help they would find most useful, you can agree or counter-propose. For example, when I am low during the night, my husband knows that bringing me 6 oz of mango juice, my favorite that I rarely drink otherwise, would be a loving and helpful gesture. But, we agreed, I always keep boxes of juice nearby in case it would disturb his sleep too much to get up.
As partners in this life together that includes the challenges of diabetes, we both strive, in our own ways, to overcome negative habits, such as eating junk food. I, as the diabetic, am the force for the healthy, vegan diet in our household; he is the force for fitness. Though we are each free to make our own choices, our focus on partnership rather than trying to control the other in the guise of help, uplifts the love and energy between us.
5. Joanna Jana Laznicka
It is important to support diabetic family members by understanding their dietary requirements and taking them seriously. Doing so shows them their health is important to you. There are simple things you can remember when you are food shopping, cooking or ordering meals, such as avoiding refined grains and limit added sugars. This also include beverages: avoid high-glycemic-index beverages such as sodas, sweet teas, and juices, making sure there are unsweetened beverages available such as water or unsweetened teas. Furthermore, consider portions size and meal frequency. Diabetics should eat small meals many times the day spaced out, rather than one or two large meals.
6. Laura Doyle
It's tempting to remind loved-ones to exercise, or to avoid treats, but the subtext of those messages is “you're not taking care of yourself.” That's a negative Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy and most people resist being criticized or told what to do, even if it's well-meaning.
Instead, consider “catching” your loved-one doing something good and giving him a positive Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy. When he's taking a walk say, “You're so good about exercising!”
When he's passing on dessert, say, “You are such a healthy eater!”
You may get a sideways glance at first when you change up your Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy, but why not experiment?
One woman who started affirming her diabetic husband for being a healthy eater was shocked to hear her husband offer to make a salad for dinner a short time later. “You're going to make a salad?” she asked, surprised.
“Yeah,” he responded with no hint of sarcasm, “Because, you know...I'm a healthy eater.”
That one Spouse-Fulfiling Prophecy got better results than ten years of reminders and encouragement.
7. Kathy L. Jacobson
A while ago I was asked, “If I had one message that I want people to understand, what would that be?” My answer is, “Love yourself. It's the most important thing you can do for yourself. Period.I believe that when you do this, your whole world changes because you put yourself and your feelings first.
Ultimately, what that really means is that it's crucial to be connected with yourself and your Source energy, or Higher Power, or the Divine, or God, or Mother Nature, or whatever you call that “thing”. When you take the time to connect to that energy first and foremost, you find yourself to be clear, loving and compassionate. When you are grounded in that energy, it is easy to know what your next steps are. You will make better choices and feel good about them.
When you are dealing with someone who has diabetes, you can often forget to take care of yourself. You can give and give and give until you are depleted. From that depleted place it's very hard to have any clarity. You often do things you “should” do and that usually creates resistance like resentment or anger or fear. Of course, that's not what you or anyone wants and it only keeps the negative spin going.
If you are the one who has diabetes, connecting with that all-loving Source energy can help you thrive. You are not flawed, and loving yourself is very important medicine. Instead of looking at what is wrong you can change your focus. And what you focus on finds you.
Finding the joy in your life,expecting to be happy and having compassion for yourself provides a beautiful foundation for you and your future. And it all comes from loving yourself first.
8. Brook Montagna
What can I do to help the diabetic or diabetics in my family? (tips and strategies that family members can use to better help their family member affected by diabetes)? By Brook Montagna, M.S. Psychology, Mindful Life Coach. www.mindfullifecoach.com
Being newly diagnosed with diabetes is shocking not only to the person with diabetes but also to the family members. For all of you, your lives will be changed forever.
You are likely very concerned for the health of your family member, but not sure how best to help. Here are some important things to keep in mind so that you can be a strong support for your family member with diabetes, along with some ways to support yourself, too.
1. FACE THE CHANGES - If the diagnosis is recent, an important task for the diabetic and for the whole family is coming to acceptance of the changes in your lives. Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires ongoing, daily management, and most people will likely go through the stages of grief over the loss of the way things were before the diagnosis, and fear about the way things are going to be in the future. This is normal. (The stages of grief are shock, denial, anger, despair, and acceptance.) Everyone processes change differently, and it helps be aware that it is normal and healthy to go through these emotions in order to get to the place of acceptance. Be patient and understanding with yourself and your loved ones. With acceptance comes developing confidence and optimism for living with diabetes.
2. BE INFORMED AND ENGAGED – Both you and the diabetic will benefit from reading information from qualified sources to know what to expect and how to deal with the disease. Join with the diabetic as part of his or her health team and encourage him or her to be proactive in his or her own health. Ask your loved one to teach you about the disease and it's management, so that you are engaged in their world of self-care. Try not to do for them what they can do for themselves. Instead, share in their experience by being truly interested.
3. ASK, DON”T ASSUME you know what the diabetic wants or needs. Think for a moment - If you were the one with a chronic illness, would you want people to ask you what you want or need? Asking is important because what you think the diabetic wants may not be correct, or more importantly may not be what they need. For example, here are a couple of questions you might ask. “I know you have a lot to learn to take care of yourself. How can I help with that learning process?” Or “What kind of support do you need to take care of yourself?” Or, if you would like to offer a specific type of support, ask “Would it be helpful for you to talk about it?” or “Would it be helpful if I sit down with you to create your diet and medication schedule?”
4. BE POSITIVE, but don't deny negative feelings. Living with diabetes, and any chronic illness, is difficult. There will likely be times when the diabetic feels very sad, angry, frustrated, anxious, worried, alone or depressed. You may also have these emotions. By remembering to focus on the positive aspects of life as much as possible, you will bring the necessary balance and optimism that will make the realities of diabetes more manageable.
Finally, remember that you are not alone. It can be very helpful to connect with others who are positive about living with diabetes. There are many ways to reach out and connect with other families of diabetics. You can learn from them, share with them, support them, socialize with them, and laugh and cry with them, too. With your care and concern, the experiences of living with diabetes can open your heart, deepen your compassion, and enrich your connections to others.
9. Poppy and Geoff Spencer, LCPC
We've worked with several clients who have children and adults who cope with diabetes. The #1 most successful coping mechanism in all of the clients who cope with diabetes is to embrace positivity.
Stress is an unwanted trigger for the diabetic. Here are 5 steps family members can take to imbue positivity for the diabetic family member include, and 2 BONUS steps that many are not talking about:
1. Get your own emotions in check. If the diabetic is surrounded by peace and tranquility, chances are the blood sugar levels will be balanced.
2. Focus on everything but diabetes. No one wants their identity to be defined by one aspect. If a crisis does occur, calmly address it and as soon as it is stabilized, redirect to a shared positive experience or activity.
3. Give the diabetic some control and coping skills with his or her treatments. When one preteen was able to inject himself, he projected more confidence, felt more secure, and was at ease with other challenges he experienced.
4. Daily gratitudes. We suggest a box for the year. At the end of the day, all family members write at least one thing for which they are thankful. Diabetes is not even a blip on the radar of this family-inclusive exercise.
5. Family members and friends alike can support their diabetic family member by consciously directing their energy and thoughts on the multiple dimensions of the diabetic, beyond the disease. Are they a talented artist or athlete? A good cook? A high-achieving student? Accent the attributes that are meaningful and more positively define the person.
6. Bonus #1: "There is a commitment for ALL of the family members to eat healthy and regularly exercise," says one of our clients, Michelle Jones of San Diego.
7. Bonus #2: Compassion. Living in a family with a diabetic fosters compassion and sensitivity. This daily learned empathy extends to the community as well.
Here is a link to podcast http://sarasotatalkradio.com/the-relationship-restaurant/
10. Lynn Goodacre
There's no reason that your diabetes should hold you back from dating! If you have been diagnosed recently, you may want to ensure that your management plan is in place because you may have to make some significant lifestyle changes. Once things are stabilized, and you're ready to date... at what point do you tell a prospective partner that you're diabetic? There is no hard and fast rule about this, of course, but generally honesty is the best policy. For example, if you steer clear of certain foods and beverages it may be helpful to explain why. Many non-diabetics don't really understand much about the condition so you may have to do some educating. A prospective partner will likely be curious about what impact your diabetes may have on your relationship. Again, it is a great idea to start out with clarity, so explain how your diabetes is managed and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. You might even inspire others with your food and exercise habits!
11. Fran Greene LCSWR
“Coping with a chronic illness is life altering for the patient and for those who love them. The most important strategy is for your family member to believe that you get it! They need to feel that you empathize with them and that you understand the loss that they are experiencing.
Food is a part of everything we do, and for many, it is their number one way to socialize.
Here are my top 10ways to help:
- Be supportive and let the person with diabetes vent their frustrations and difficulties to you
- Offer to go to a cooking class with them for persons with diabetes
- Eat the same things as the person with diabetes for one week to demonstrate your love
- Do not be the food police
- Suggest food alternatives
- Encourage your family member to attend a support group
- Praise your family member for their diligence
- Just love them
- Cook their favorite diabetic dish
- Accept that perfection is not realistic
12. Dr. Duana Welch, Ph.D
My child was diagnosed with Type 1 when she was just turning two years old and just as I was becoming a single parent. What she's needed from me has changed over the years, just as she has changed. But in general, there have been three constants: normalization of her life, the message that perfection is not the goal, and concept that self-care is a privilege like driving.
Normalization: when she was little, I needed to normalize her life as much as possible, while totally tending to her needs and care. For instance, I taught her grandmother how to care for her so that she could have the normal experience of spending time with her, and so I could catch a break too. As my child got old enough for birthday parties, I figured out carb counts of foods and gave her insulin at least 10 minutes before the cake came out, but I didn't eliminate the cake—keeping that was part of normalizing her life. The mere idea of sleepovers terrified me, but I remained ‘on-call' and taught everyone what was necessary, so that she could participate. Now, she eats like other teens. I'm not thrilled with that, but I'm also not going to make having diabetes even more of a burden than it has to be. The difference is, she takes insulin first.
Perfection: it was a relief to me to learn that the body can process insulin quite differently every single day. Before I learned that, I was aiming for perfection. Diabetes management presents a huge cognitive and emotional burden to the person with diabetes and to the family. Add the stress of perfectionism—unattainable—to it, and it's no wonder parents and kids alike rebel and burn out. Nobody can ‘do' diabetes flawlessly, but everyone can make progress by testing frequently, and responding appropriately. Learning this helped me figure out and tell my child that all blood sugar numbers are good—they all mean she's living, and they all give an indicator of what needs to be done next. Raising my daughter to embrace frequent testing and to have an attitude of curiosity about how to predict, prevent, and deal with highs and lows has meant good—but not perfect-- control from her second birthday, to almost 14 years later. More important, it's meant that my child is on board, rather than rebelling or burning out.
Privilege: diabetes self-care is a process requiring children and adults to eventually master well over 100 discrete tasks, not to mention complicated decision-making based on many factors such as stress, hormones, activity, food, equipment, etc. When my daughter was a baby, of course, I did everything. As she grew older, I began talking to my child about what I was doing: “Now I'm counting how much carb is in this milk. It's one glass of milk, so it's about 12 grams. Now I'm putting that number into your pump, along with your blood sugar number.” When it seemed like she was really following, I replaced telling with asking: “I wonder, can you tell me how much carb is in this apple?” “The blood sugar number right now is 200. Does this mean taking more insulin, or less?” It was like a game. (She especially loves it when she became better at carb counting than I did.)
What I didn't do—despite ‘experts' at the schools, and well-meaning friends saying otherwise—was to rush or force her to take on any self-care before she wanted to. If she didn't want to guess, I dropped it for a few days. If she was tuning out, I stopped talking about diabetes for a few days and just did all the care without comment. If she didn't want to test, I did it, without complaint. I can never forget: diabetes is in many ways optional for me. For her, it's not. So, to prevent burnout and rebellion in her, I had to figure out how to turn self-care into a privilege and a reward, not a lifetime of shackles.
I did it with a driving analogy. Learning to drive is difficult and scary and expensive. But most of us focus on it as a path towards independence, and that makes it a privilege. Self-care in Type 1 is also a privilege because it gives independence. My child knows she can always—even now, at nearly age 16—turn to me to take care of her. She is not forced to shoulder the burden of this 24/7 condition all on her own, and as long as I'm alive, she will always be able to turn to me for ‘breaks' from self-care (a strategy I learned from one of her doctors, who went home on the weekends when he was in medical school, and had his mother take over his diabetes care so he could rest). But she wants her independence, and she gets it that that is tied to being responsible for showing appropriate self-care at home and away. Will I go with her to every event if she shows irresponsibility? Yes. I'm not going to punish her—just be there to keep her safe. But she wants to be a normal teenager, and that means ditching Mom when she's with friends. And that, in turn, means taking good care of herself. Which she has done, willingly.
My daughter drove me around for an hour yesterday, on backcountry roads and through our town. It was her first time driving us anywhere but the empty parking lot of the local community college. We were both nervous, and it didn't go perfectly, and I grabbed the wheel and stomped my foot on the (non-existent passenger-side brake) a few times; but we survived, the car is intact, and she will drive again. She's doing all the same stuff as all the other kids in our area—learning and earning her independence. Unlike most teens, for her this means a high level of self-care. Like other teens, she's rebelled about some stuff. But she's never rebelled about her self-care, and I think this is because for her, diabetes is one part of a full life. It's not the whole thing. Her life is (mostly) normal; progress, not perfection, is the daily goal; and she's going for the privilege of independence.
I'm proud of her.
13. Dr. Ronna Phifer-Ritchie, PhD, CLC
The positive impact of creating a healthy relational environment for diabetic family members:
Good, close relationships are essential for our mental health, and that is even more true for the millions of Americans facing the medical challenge of diabetes. Theirpsychological well-beingis essential to sustaining the motivation and the perspective needed to live life well with the extra demands diabetes places on life-management resources.
The research is clear: psychological and medical issues need to be cared for together to create the best outcomes with this health challenge (Monitor on Psychology, More Psychologists Needed to Treat Diabetes), and healthy family relationships create a foundation for effective management of this disease that should not be overlooked. The question is, how do we, as family members, best create that kind of healthy relational environment for our loved one diagnosed with diabetes?
The research supports this closer look at relational health in families as an essential strategy for dealing effectively with diabetes:
95% of the diabetics in this country fall into the Type-2-Diabetes category, where lifestyle choices have been shown to be even more effective than medication (NIH-funded Diabetes Prevention Program, New England Journal of Medicine, 2002).
Therefore, our ability to show up for these individuals in ways that encourage their best behavior choices is worthy our ongoing attention, especially if we in their circle of highly significant family connections.
These 2 areas tend to be mismanaged most in family relationships with diabetics:
In my work as a relationship coach and personality style researcher, I have observed that family members' relational styles often deteriorate, become more automatic and less relational, in response to stress.
When this relational style deterioration gets triggered, family members can easily slip into mismanagement of the line between actual therapeutic relating and “overdoing” a relational pattern (instead of relating). This tends to occur two key areas, when a family member is diabetic:
1. Supporting life management:
The line between providing support, and engaging in too much supervision (modeling anxiety, creating resistance by attempting to control to many of the diabetic individual's behaviors, etc.)
2. Encouraging independent life management:
The line between encouraging independence and disconnecting (moving into dangerous denial, unconsciously closing pathways to contact, avoiding necessary honest confrontations, etc.)
How understanding our relational styles can help us createa more therapetuic relational environment for our loved ones:
This is where an understanding of our relational style can be so helpful for the concerned family member of the diabetic who truly wants to support and encourage their loved one in building an effective life and good relationship with reality.
TheEnneagram of Personality is one powerful tool we can use for this self-awareness piece around relational style. (For more on the Enneagram of Personality and relational health, visit my website: www.RelationshipDoctorOnline.com)
IfI, as a family member and support person, notice that I am starting to slip into my personal Enneagram relational style “over-doing-it” traps, that is a clear signal that it is time for me relax, take care of myself, and do some work on my own supporting and encouraging patterns.
If I lean towards being a….
REFORMER Type: I'm wonderfully principled, idealistic. But, under stress, I can slip into feeling an obligation to “fix” my loved one or resenting them for managing their program imperfectly, and criticizing and finger pointing from an almost parental position.
HELPER Type: I'm astoundingly caring, interpersonal. But, under stress, I can slip into doing things for my loved one just so I can feel needed, leaning into their life in an imposing way, forgetting to have a life of my own and ignoring my own needs.
ACHIEVER Type: I'm remarkably adaptable, success-oriented. But, under stress, I can slip into being overly concerned with image and what others think of my loved one's ability to manage their illness, even pushing him/her for the sake of appearance.
INDIVIDUALIST Type: I'm exquisitely introspective, romantic. But, under stress, I can slip into withholding myself from family due to feeling defective, pulling back from needed structures in the household, with a self-absorption that can cause me to miss important things going on with my loved one.
INVESTIGATOR Type: I'm profoundly perceptive, cerebral. But, under stress, I can slip into detachment, and being so high-strung and intense when I am around my loved one that I flee to isolation, instead of nurturing the healthy relational contact we both need.
LOYALIST Type: I'm honorably committed, security-oriented. But, under stress, I can slip into being overly cautious and indecisive, and reactive. I can get stuck in irrational doubt about myself and my abilities to handle things, and in suspicion about my loved one's compliance with treatment.
ENTHUSIAST Type: I'm excitingly busy, optimistic. But, under stress, I can slip into constantly seeking new and exciting experiences, becoming distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. I can run from the reality of my loved one's discomfort and needs in this flight.
CHALLENGER Type: I'm impressively powerful, aggressive. But, under stress, I can slip into believing I must control my environment, especially my loved one, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. This can damage the needed vulnerability between us that builds relationship and helps my loved one feel his or her own power.
PEACEMAKER Type: I'm deeply easy-going, self-effacing. But, under stress, I can slip into being complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. The inertia of our family patterns and my stubbornness can keep me from noticing when my loved one needs important intervention in their health journey.
The remedy when I slip into unhelpful relational patterns with my family member?I need to remember that I can stay awake to this kind of relational style automatic “slippage,” and correct course when necessary. Then I can continue to be a well-functioning part of that relational foundation so necessary for my loved one's best psychological and medical outcomes in life!
14. Ronit Baras - Parenting Expert
The emotional toll of diabetes is high. The changes needed are energy consuming and require self regulation. Family can help by adopting some of the life style required from the person having diabetes. Food is a major change. Much like any diet, at first, it feels restricting and many will say "there is nothing to eat". Children especially feel restricted when having to cut some food from their diet. Since they don't have enough life experience to understand it is just another health regime, they focus too much on what they are missing. The change in mindset is the hardest thing to do and family members can come up with ideas that will promote swapping rather than restricting food. To help a person manage the regulation family members can make sure the focus is on health and not on avoiding sickness. This message is healthy for everyone in the family, does not isolate the person with diabetes and helps with motivation. When we focus on what we are going to achieve rather than what we are missing out, it is easier to keep the motivation.
The good news is that healthy eating habits of a person with diabetes are in fact healthy for everyone at home. If the entire family change into healthy eating it'll be easier for the person to transition into a new diet without the emotional challenges of being different, being restricted and feeling he is missing out on tasty food.
15. Lauren Aycock Anderson, MS, LGMFT, NCC
The answer is simple: ask your partner. Only your partner knows what they would like you to help with and what they would rather you leave up to them. Partners of diabetics often have to watch out for signs of low or high blood sugar, but they may not want you scolding them every time they choose to eat a piece of chocolate. So ask them what they want. Questions might include:
- What can I do to best help you manage the diabetes?
- What happens when your blood sugar is low or high? What should I look out for? What should I do?
- What medications do you take?
- Is there anything that you absolutely do not want me to do?
Encourage your partner to let you know if you ever overstep their boundaries. Sometimes we go a little too far because we care and worry about our partners. That's ok! Just try to keep the lines of communication open so that your partner feels comfortable enough to tell you if you're going overboard with care.
Last, you may want to educate yourself on the type of diabetes your partner has. Each type has very different implications and understanding the disease may help to ease your mind.
There are many strategies/tips to help the diabetic or diabetics in the family.
Listen to your family members: Pay attention to what they are asking for – and don't assume you know better.
Give them emotional support so they don't feel alone. For example, if a family member has diabetes and needs to change her/his diet and/or exercise habits, it can be very difficult to do these changes alone. But, if other family members offer to change with them, exercise with them, or eat a new way together - it can be much less difficult and encourage a "team" approach.
Let your family members respond to their diagnosis in their own way. Allow them to act and feel in their way, since your way may be right for you, but not them.
Communicate openly and honestly.
Help them educate themselves - show them resources so that they can learn more about diabetes and their diagnosis (e.g., online resources, online communities, books, doctor pamphlets, etc.).
Ask them if they would like you to come to their doctor's appointments, to write down and/or ask questions. Also, even if you just drive them to an appointment (and not come into the appointment) its nice to have someone there with you before the doctor visits
17. Tina M. Thomas
Are there other solutions for dealing with diabetes?
YES! Let's think outside of the box, shall we? Hi, my name is Tina and I have helped hundreds of people with their physical and mental challenges during the past 26 years. As a Life Approach Leader and Alternative Therapist, I teach my clients cutting edge tools to better cope with their issues and shift their perceptions about what they are experiencing in their lives.
It's important to realize how your perception and thoughts affect your body. Stress is known to be a direct cause of physical illness. That may not be new information, but the truth remains that stress hurts your physical and mental wellbeing. Real simple, right? Now, given the opportunity, your mind will always work to correct a situation that is not in your best interest. It recognizes that you are experiencing stress, and it knows the root cause of that stress, AND, it knows what is going to happen to your body as a result of the stress that you are not unloading.
I assist my clients in being more aware of how their attitude and emotional state contributes to their diabetes, as well as other issues. I teach my clients techniques that are simple and easy to learn and that help to dramatically relieve the body and mind of stress. As a result, the issue(s) that the client is having automatically improves.
Together we work to ease symptoms of diabetes such as high blood sugar levels, raised blood pressure, fatigue, weight issues, tingling, numbness and infection. We will also address the emotions that have arisen since being diagnosed with an illness, to release overwhelm, fear, sadness, anger and other negative emotions.
During an appointment, a client's challenges are established (physical and/or emotional) and by using a combination of different modalities, a new outcome can be easily created. These changes are immediate and evident to the client and when compared, they often report significant differences in their physical and mental state after having a session.
Short term results include relieving stress, physical discomfort and emotional upset. Long term results can include healing physical symptoms without drugs and using new techniques to create a better quality of life through mindset and attitude. Clients see proof of their changes by virtue of their new and improved daily experience, which is not only welcomed, but uplifting!
If you would like to know more, I'd be happy to offer you a free 30 minute (no obligation) consultation. I can be reached at 1-866-936-9976 toll free, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to visit my website at www.mindshifthealing.com ~ You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
18. Dr. Georgiana Spradling Ph.D., MFT, CDVC
Having a family member with diabetes is not easy. Diabetes is a disease that affects not only the person who has it, but their family as well. Here are some important things that relatives should keep in mind:
- Be kind. It is scary to have diabetes and it also involves pain that is difficult to manage.
- Understand the physical as well as emotional changes that the afflicted family member will go through and be committed to resolving the problem without conflict. For example, if they are in a bad mood, consider that it may be due to an abnormal sugar level before you engage in an argument.
- Have a conversation with the afflicted family member about what you are willing and not willing to do and get their perspective on what they are willing to do themselves and expect you to help them with. This will help clarify what each person is responsible for.
- Become familiar with the symptoms of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) levels as well as the symptoms of diabetic shock so that you can intervene in a timely manner. There are many situations in which the patient may not be able to be self-sufficient no matter how much they would like to be. Also, showing your interest in understanding their condition will make the diabetic family member feel safer.
- Do not talk about their diabetes constantly or make comments in public, as this may embarrass the patient and make them feel resentful or depressed.
- Be willing to process feelings of guilt and anger with the diabetic, as many people who are afflicted with this condition have regrets about past nutrition and overall attention to health and feel angry about being the ones who have fallen ill.
- Make healthy changes that involve the whole family, such as going on walks together and sharing healthy meals. This will make the patient feel less isolated and more supported.
- Keep a low stress environment around the house, as diabetics tend to have a harder time controlling their sugar levels when under stress. This may involve working on your patience and being a good listener.
- Have sugar around in case of need and do not hesitate to reach out for extra help. If for any reason you usually have a hard time asking for help, or dislike hospitals, consult with the patient's physician about the instances in which you would need to act and share the list with a second person in your household.
19. Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
As a marriage and family therapist, I take a systemic approach to the management of chronic conditions like diabetes.
For example, when couples and families are able to shift their perspective away from it being "YOUR problem" and instead cultivate the mindset that it's "OUR problem" amazing things can happen that make coping with adversity much easier. For example if "WE" have diabetes and are managing it together, a family can be in alignment around healthy eating habits and activities that support everyone's health and wellness. The person with the condition experiences support, companionship, and natural motivation to take care of themselves because that's what we do, together.
Contrast this idea with a person who feels isolated in their marriage and family as "the person with the problem." In this regrettable situation they may be confronted with family members eating sugary snacks in front of them, having to make separate food, not having support for the monitoring and management they need to do, and having to engage in exercise or health promoting activities on their own. In this situation, managing their condition becomes much more daunting: Taking care of themselves requires being in conflict with their family.
When families are united against a common enemy, and fighting diabetes together, managing it becomes more than just a set of behaviors: It becomes a meaningful point of connection that uplifts and strengthens the entire family.
20. Dr. Jackie Black, Ph.D, BCC
When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, it is like having your whole world turned upside down. Every aspect of your life is affected, and will be affected forever. Having someone tell you that you have diabetes often evokes strong feelings. It is common to feel shock, numbness and disbelief that give way to anxiety, anger, depression and sadness It is a BIG deal. It takes time to fully take in the impact of what it means to have a chronic illness. It takes time to figure out how to address all the areas of your life that you suddenly have to be aware of and focus on. We can talk about it as “lifestyle changes;” but the reality is that folks diagnosed with diabetes have to consistently monitor their blood sugar, manage their stress, make sure they get enough exercise, sleep enough, and make huge changes in their diets and often moderate or stop eating favorite things they have enjoyed for years.
And let's not forget the medical side of things; and oh yes, let's remember how important it is to have a positive attitude and manage stress. And as if all that is that is not enough, sometimes, having a chronic illness causes people to feel not only overwhelmed, but also isolated and alone. While it is true that support from others is central to coping with chronic illness, and while it very important to create that strong, external support system with family, friends, and professionals, the first step is for the person living with diabetes to create their strong, INTERNAL support system. No matter how much you love and care for someone, you can NOT help them or support them unless and until THEY are well along the way to creating their own INTERNAL support system and are ready to receive support from the outside. If they are still struggling to figure out how all the pieces of having diabetes fit together, and they haven't quite yet started rolling along and being proactive on their own behalf, your well-intentioned help or support will feel like being bullied, controlled, pressured, mistrusted, or worse.
Be patient. Be loving and kind when you see your loved one struggling, or really falling down on the job. Don't let your worry and concern negatively impact them. They have enough to deal with.
It is your job to take care of your emotions. Recognize that you might be very well served to get some support for yourself from someone professionally trained in these matters.
Reach out to your loved one
Tell your loved one that you understand the enormity of their experience right now. Tell them that you are available to help them in what ever way would be helpful to them, and support them in whatever way would be supportive to them.
Tell them you are ready to step up whenever it feels like the right time to them.
Then take a step back and be patient. This is one of the most challenging and painful times for family members and friends of those living with chronic (and lifethreatening) illness. You must learn to trust that your family member will figure it out – no matter how long it takes.
When your loved one is ready
When they are ready and asking for your help or support, always ask for specific behaviors that would be helpful and feel like really being supported.
Don't assume that you know. The way you might be helped or supported may be very different from the way someone else needs and wants to be supported; and very different from what feels like help or support to someone else.
Tell them that if the way you are doing it doesn't feel good or isn't working for them that they should not hesitate to tell you. Your intention is to be helpful. Then go back to the drawing board together, and figure out a new way to offer your support.
Don't underestimate the value of offering empathy! If you want a short reminder about how powerful empathy is, take 3 minutes and watch Brené Brown's video on Empathy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw . Remember, this is a journey of unknowns. Your patience and curiosity are your new best friends.
21. Dr. Aaron Anderson, M.S., LMFT
The best thing you can do as a family is to eat the same things your diabetic family member eats. It's hard enough being a diabetic and watching what you eat, but it's even harder when your family is eating lots of candy, desserts and sweet foods that you don't get to. It's also hard when you're eating a separate meal than the rest of the family. So be supportive and find a diet for your diabetic family member that your whole family can enjoy.
22. Janet D Webber
Coming to Acceptance - Caregiving or Caretaking?
Being diagnosed with a serious chronic disease like diabetes is life changing... both for the person diagnosed and for those persons that love them.
Family members and friends may be called upon to give care or to take care their loved one. So, what exactly is caregiving and caretaking and why are they different? Caregiving is care freely given to those we love. No strings attached and wholesomely motivated.
Caretaking, in its healthy form, is an indispensable part of what makes our society great -- a deep bow to all our caretakers. But sometimes, healthy, well intentioned caretaking crosses the line into unhealthy caretaking.
Unhealthy caretaking is assuming another person's responsibilities and can have detrimental effects. In its simplest form, it's doing for others what they should be doing for themselves. For the purposes of this article I am referring to caretaking in its unhealthy form.
If the diabetes diagnosis is a young person in our care then they need us to take control. Children need caregiving AND caretaking. But for the adults in our life it's a different story.
How can we be supportive and caring without taking over our loved ones' responsibility for managing their disease. For some it can feel like walking a tight rope.
To make it even more challenging our loved ones may be covertly pulling on us to manage their disease for them… either because they feel helpless, hopeless or overwhelmed -- for example, asking us to help them stick to their diet and then a minute later resenting us for being the food police.
Four strategies that may be helpful:
1. Check your fear at the door
The first step is to deal with our own very real fear. your loved one could become seriously sick if his/her illness isn't managed properly. If we see that they are struggling to stay compliant, making poor food choices and/or going through the roller coaster of -- compliance and non compliance -- which is often a normal stage of coming to acceptance, we can become fearful. The impulse to take on the other person's responsibilities for managing their illness may be overwhelming.
The practice of learning how to listen to and sooth ourselves is an invaluable skill for this and all of life's challenges.
Self soothing exercise:
First, summon up the strongest, wisest part of yourself. Breathe deeply and become willing to be present with what you're feeling without turning away. Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a child… Ask yourself… “what are you feeling?” Listen for the answer and give language to the feeling. ie. “I'm scared”, “confused”, “helpless”, etc.
Don't try to change how you feel… just be present to all the feelings as they arise. Ask, “what else?”… listen for the answer.
This may sound simple but it's a powerful practice both for calming yourself and gaining clarity. Being able to witness our feelings with acceptance as we deal with the challenges of another human being is no small thing.
2. Clear communication
Rather than guessing or assuming… ask the diabetic how they would like your help. Sort through their requests one by one by giving them the body compass test. Our bodies hold wisdom and reveal truths that our minds can easily override.
Body compass test:
Think about what you are being asked to do or think you should do. Turn towards your inner experience and do a body scan (read on…) for how your body actually feels. What we are looking for are real physical sensations rather than emotions, thoughts or images.
If you notice your body feels relaxed, calm, light or energized then go ahead. This is probably true caregiving. It feels loving and can leave you feeling invigorated even if it's physically demanding.
If, when you check in with your body, you become aware of feelings of contraction, tightness, heaviness or fatigue… then you may be crossing into the territory of unhealthy caretaking. Unhealthy caretaking usually leaves us feeling stressed, anxious and exhausted. It doesn't feel good for the caretaker or the person receiving the care even though we may truly believe it does.
Genuine caregiving doesn't deplete us in the same way unhealthy caretaking does.
3. Getting honest
Caregiving is born of love, compassion and true care.
Unhealthy caretaking, although well intentioned often has at its root an underlying motivation. That may be to get a sense of self-worth through giving, a feeling of being needed and valued. Or hoping to get love and/or acceptance in return for the care given.
This self-inquiry requires brutal honesty. Ask yourself “Is there something I am hoping to get in return for this?”
4. Not assuming we know what's best for others
One of the biggest traps we can fall into is assuming that we know what's best for others. This is so wide spread you could almost say it's the human condition. The truth is we don't know what's best for others. Only they know.
Most unhealthy caretaking is sincere and well intentioned… but when we don't trust that others know how to take care of themselves we are speaking to the weakest parts of them. When we speak to the strongest parts of people they often find inner resources and problem solving abilities they didn't know they have -- in short, they rise to the challenge!
When we let go of the idea that we know what is best for others it allows them to step fully into their power to not only take care of themselves, but also to experience the pride that comes with that.
Ultimately the biggest gift we can give anyone is to let them have their own path… even if it's one we wouldn't choose.
Both the diabetic and their families have to find their own way to acceptance. And with acceptance comes peace, and ultimately joy regardless of illness and life's challenges.
Practice patience and have compassion for yourself and for your loved ones, knowing that caring for another requires good communication, self-examination, and attention as to motivation to result in the most effective care you can provide.
23. Dr. Kat Van Kirk
Like most chronic illness, sometimes it's hard to gauge what our family members really need or want. Often times it becomes the elephant in the room. Some diabetes patients may take awhile in not only accepting their diagnosis but making the lifestyle changes that may be needed. Here are some tips to support your loved one through this process.
- Get a dialogue going. Offer to help them in whatever way they will allow you. Whether it's coordinating appointments or helping to do their grocery shopping.
- Don't steam roll them. Your loved one still needs to feel as empowered as they can about their life. Let them call the shots regarding what they need.
- Offer to get active with them by encouraging walks and gentle work outs.
- Ask them how much they want to talk about the diagnosis. Some patients get overwhelmed out of the gate while others want to actively set up a plan.
- Realize that there may be a shift in lifestyle which can profoundly affect the patient and the family. Learning to take insulin or go through dialysis can be life altering. Talk to a caregiver support group about resources. Suggest to your family member that they attend a support group (in person or online) so that they won't feel alone and can benefit from the experience of others.
- Be on the look out for mood changes and depression. Encourage them to talk to their primary doctor to assess medications and give referrals for a therapist or social worker who specializes in chronic illness.
- Diabetes and it's treatment can cause problems with erections and orgasms. If you don't feel prepared to discuss this with them, make sure his/her doctor does and leave plenty of written material around that addresses the issue.
- Find the joy. Give them opportunities to live life. It shouldn't be all about their disease and treatment. Don't forget the fun.
Watching someone you love struggle with diabetes can be very painful. However, we would like to remind you that your loved one is extremely grateful to have you around them.
On days when they are down, it is most likely that your unwavering support and believe in them keeps them going on. You may not be helping them in great or large ways but even a small step goes a long way. We thank the experts who have contributed their wisdom to this article in order to reach to our readers.
Please share with us on how YOU show or lend support to your loved one with their diabetes by leaving a comment below.
TheDiabetesCouncil Article | Reviewed by Dr. Christine Traxler MD on October 15, 2018