February 22, 2017

Talking with Family about Diabetes

Talking with family or friends about diabetes is not always easy. With the myths that exist about diabetes, it can be difficult to avoid snide remarks and nagging from family or friends that feel that they are helping you manage your diabetes.

You may get comments like - "Should you be eating that?" "I found this article online, and it says that people with diabetes need to ..." "Have you tested your blood sugar today?"

If you have diabetes, you've probably heard questions and comments like these at least once from some friends and family members. How can you teach these well-meaning folks to offer the kind of help you need, instead of what they think you need?

#1. Erase myths with education. "There's a lot of misinformation about diabetes, and it's important that people understand what's true and what isn't," says Dawn Sherr, RD, a practice manager at the American Association of Diabetes Educators. "For people who are close to you -- spouses, family members, or close friends -- encourage them to attend a diabetes education class, or ask them to accompany you to an office visit to get a better understanding of how diabetes is going to affect you."

#2. Figure out what support means to you. For example, some people see reminders about what to eat or what to buy at the store as helpful -- others don't. "If someone asks me if I've tested my blood sugar today, I see it as showing that they care about me," says Elizabeth Mwanga, owner of a health care tech company. "But for other people, that can feel like nagging." Sit loved ones down and explain the kind of help that works best for you.

#3. Make family and friends part of the solution. "If you're newly diagnosed with diabetes and trying to become more physically fit or eat better, encourage your friends and family to be supportive and participate themselves," Sherr says. If you make lifestyle changes a group effort, it allows them to feel like they're contributing and lets them see just how hard you're working.

#4. Stress small steps. "Just because someone has been diagnosed with diabetes doesn't mean they will change everything about their life overnight," Sherr says. "Let the people in your life know that."

#5. Be honest with yourself. It can't hurt to take a quick look in the mirror. Are the comments bothering you because they might be a little bit on target?

#6. Let others know you appreciate their concern. Most of the time, when people "nag" you about your diabetes, they do it out of concern and love, not to be a pain. Tell your husband or mom or best friend, "It means a lot that you care so much about me and want me to be healthy. Trust me -- I've got this under control."

#7. Other tips and questions for your doctor.
Can you help me with the skills to handle diabetes?

How well do you think I'm managing my condition? What's the one thing I should focus on most?

How do I talk to my partner and family about diabetes?

What do I need to know to still enjoy going out to dinner with family and friends?

How can diabetes affect my sex life?

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