If you have type 2 diabetes, you may wonder how you’ll cope. According to a 2013 study, you’re more likely to stick to your diabetes treatment plan if you don’t go it alone. Read on to learn how to enlist your family, friends, and doctors for support.
Identify your needs first
Diabetes has the greatest impact on you, but it also affects everyone in your inner circle to some degree, whether it be family members or friends. Your loved ones want to reach out, but they may not know how.
Before asking for help, you’ll need to figure out what you want help with. People around you may think you need help with one thing when you really need it with something else.
Maybe you just want a friendly ear when you’re overwhelmed. Perhaps you’d like someone to help you take your medications or remind you to check your blood sugar. The type of assistance you need will shift from time to time. But misunderstandings are less likely to happen if you identify your needs and expectations before approaching your family and friends.
Education is a good place to start
To help your family and friends understand type 2 diabetes and what you’re going through, educate them. For some, this may be their first experience with diabetes.
Get the educational ball rolling by taking family members, especially those involved in your care, to your doctor appointments. Most doctors are eager to include family members because they know the likely outcome is a healthier you. Invite your family to come to the appointment with questions and concerns they have. Ask your doctor to explain to them:
- what type 2 diabetes is
- your treatment plan
- how to administer medications and insulin, if applicable
- potential diabetes complications such as hypoglycemia, if applicable
- what to do in an emergency
- what to expect going forward
Be sure to let your family and friends know that diabetes may cause emotional symptoms as well as physical ones. You may have anxiety from dealing with a chronic condition. Put this together with fluctuating blood levels, and you could end up experiencing mood swings, depression, and brain fog.
Provide your family and friends with educational materials about type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association offers a large selection of free handouts and brochures. They also offer books and other resources for sale. Ask your diabetes care team about other educational resources and if there are classes you and your family can take together.
Urge everyone to jump on the healthy eating bandwagon
For most people with type 2 diabetes, eating a healthy diet is one of the most important factors in successfully managing their condition. If you don’t eat healthy, you’re more likely to need medications to keep your blood sugar levels controlled. Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar may lead to:
- heart disease
- blood vessel disease
- neuropathy (nerve damage)
- kidney problems
- eye damage
- foot problems
- skin problems
- hearing problems
A complete overhaul to your diet can be daunting. Enlisting your family, friends, and diabetes care team for help can make the process easier. First, determine if your goal is only to manage your condition or also to lose weight. Often, the two go hand in hand.
Consult a dietitian, and take your family members and friends to your appointments. The dietitian will work with you to develop an eating plan that helps you manage your blood sugar levels and reach your weight loss goals. They’ll also teach you how food impacts your blood sugar and how to count carbs to keep blood sugar levels stable when you make less healthy food choices.
Some ways your family and friends can help you eat healthy are:
- eating the same foods you do
- not eating unhealthy, tempting foods around you
- planning healthy meals with you
- preparing healthy meals with you or for you
- working with you ahead of time to identify healthy choices for dining out
Get fit together
Consistent exercise may help lower your blood sugar, lower your risk of diabetes complications, and over time allow you to take less medication. It may also help prevent diabetes from occurring if you have prediabetes.
Regular physical activity such as aerobic exercise and strength training also:
- reduces blood pressure
- lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious diseases
- helps you maintain a healthy weight
- relieves stress and anxiety
- promotes restful sleep
- improves joint flexibility and bone health
- reduces your risk of depression
Everyone benefits from regular exercise. It’s a great activity for you and your family to do together. And it doesn’t have to be boring or something you dread. Find activities you enjoy like taking an evening stroll, doing yard work, bicycling, or swimming. Aim for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. You can break it up into shorter sessions to help — say, 10 minutes of walking three times a day.
Ask co-workers to help you find ways to amp up your activity level during the day. Maybe that means walking to lunch instead of driving, or taking a walk around the building on your break. Consider investing in a fitness tracker that allows you to “friend” others to help challenge you and keep you on track.
When your family and social circle work with you to manage your diabetes, everyone wins. A healthy diet and regular exercise benefits all, even those already in good health. Working together to tackle a challenging diagnosis can strengthen family ties and fortify friendships.
And remember, your diabetes care team works for you. They’re available to guide and assist you as needed. But they can’t help if they don’t know your concerns. To stay as healthy as possible, maintain an honest, open dialogue with your care team and your family and friends throughout your diabetes journey.