Living with diabetes blog

Coping with diabetes: Helping your loved one

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. April 24, 2013

How do you help someone who won't help themself, especially when he or she is an adult?

Let's face it, diabetes isn't an easy disease to have or manage. It can be frustrating and takes work. On top of that, everyone seems to have an opinion about diabetes, whether it's valid or not.

As a family member or friend of someone with diabetes, you may see your loved one struggle with diabetes management. And some people with diabetes tend to minimize or ignore their diabetes. Burnout can occur from years of managing the condition. But, as William Polonsky, Ph.D., author of the book, Diabetes Burnout, says, "Ignoring something bad that is happening to you makes perfect sense only if there is really nothing you can do about it." That's part of why watching a family member or partner do little or nothing to keep his or her diabetes under control can be so heartbreaking.

Still, if you're a family member, friend or partner of someone with diabetes, it's important to remember whose diabetes it is and respect boundaries. Nagging, being a watchdog, extracting promises and manipulating someone to do what you want them to do doesn't work.

So what should you do? Dr. Polonsky offers the following advice:

  • Don't assume you know what your loved one with diabetes is thinking.
  • Do try and understand how your loved one's actions make sense from their perspective.
  • Don't offer advice unless you're asked.
  • Do offer to help if the individual is receptive.
  • Remind your loved one that he or she is loved on a regular basis.
  • Take care of yourself and seek education about diabetes.

In addition, it may be useful to:

  • Ask your partner, friend or family member to join you for a walk, bike ride or other activity (but accept "no" if that's the response).
  • Offer healthy food options, but don't make demands. Ultimately, it's the other person's choice.
  • Try not to nag.
  • Don't let another person's diabetes take control of your life.
  • Seek counseling if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Try motivating yourself to make lifestyle changes if needed.
  • Learn to set boundaries.

The bottom line is to take care of yourself and find your own support system. Respect your loved one's wishes and show them you care. Hopefully your loved one will discover that he or she isn't powerless and can do something to cope with and control his or her diabetes.

Have a great week.

Regards,
Nancy

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Apr. 24, 2013