A touching and informative letter by Jill Sabin Garner, a Certified Diabetes Educator, which conveys much of the thoughts and frustrations of people with Diabetes and what they need as support from their loved ones..

how to support someone with diabetes 1How to support me in managing my diabetes:
a letter to my Loved One

To my loved one,

I know that you want to support me as I work hard to reach the goals my doctor has recommended.  Your support means the world to me, and I hope that we can discuss these suggestions together.

1. To start, learn about diabetes, know the myths, the misconceptions and the reality.

Of course, if I have a good understanding of my diabetes, I will be happy to explain it to you.  If I am not confident in my ability to explain it, you can learn how to support someone with diabetes 4about it from reputable sources such as government or hospital websites or websites of national medical societies.  A good place to start is the American Diabetes Association – www.diabetes.org.  Any website that promises a way to cure my diabetes is not reputable.  Diabetes is a lifelong condition.

Make sure you know if I have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Next, learn what the general recommendations for treatment are.  Unfortunately, you must accept that knowing the general recommendations does not make you the expert on my diabetes.

Ask if you can accompany me to a medical appointment in order to learn more about my diabetes.  (But if I do not want you to come with me, please accept that decision).

2. Recognize that “support” means something different to everyone

For example,
Person A wishes that her loved one would ask about her blood sugar levels.
Person B feels her loved one is judging her blood sugar levels.

It’s important that we talk about how to best support me.   Maybe I feel like a child when you remind me to take medicine, but because of my busy schedule, I appreciate the reminder to check my blood sugar.

Be aware of the difference between being supportive and being the diabetes police.  The supportive person uses a friendly tone of voice and says: “I know you are worried about dessert at the party tonight. I won’t have dessert if you don’t, so you won’t be alone”.
The diabetes police growls: “You can’t have dessert at the party”.
Which comment is more likely to produce the desired result?

3. Know what motivates me

I already know that uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness, loss of limbs, kidney disease, poor wound healing, and many other complications.  Of course, I want to avoid those complications, but I also want to focus on positive things – being able to dance at my child’s wedding, or to create tiny details on my next embroidery project, or to travel independently.  I am more likely to succeed in managing my blood sugar by working towards something that is meaningful to me, rather than by living in fear of the complications of diabetes.

4. Join me in my efforts to eat well-balanced meals

Although everyone’s dietary needs vary (depending on many factors including size, activity level, and age), dietary recommendations for people with diabetes are also beneficial for most people without diabetes. Very basic Save recommendations include minimizing sugary foods such as how to support someone with diabetes 2candy, soda and cake,  and eating whole grain carbohydrates such as brown rice, bulgur, or whole grain bread instead of white rice, pastries, or white rolls.
It would help me – and you too –  if you leave high sugar foods out of our grocery cart and our kitchen, and if you agree to eat foods made from whole grains instead of from white flour.

5. Support or join me in my efforts to exercise

Physical activity is extremely important for people with diabetes – and also for people without diabetes.*    If I am having difficulty developing an exercise routine, perhaps you can suggest that we go to the gym together,  walk the dog together, or take dancing lessons together.  You can walk up the stairs with me instead of taking the elevator, or jog in place with me during television commercials.  Those are just a few suggestions, but together we can think of others we will enjoy.

Recognize that I may need to start an exercise program slowly.  Be proud of me if I start with only five minutes of exercise. Five minutes is better than none, and is possibly more than I have exercised in the past.
If you don’t want to exercise with me, or if I prefer to exercise alone, please don’t make me feel guilty about exercising, even if it takes some time away from our time together.
*Before beginning an exercise program, ask your doctor about any restrictions.

6. Understand that managing diabetes takes a surprising amount of effort

how to support someone with diabetes 1Be alert for signs that my blood sugar is too low.  Ask me to describe what to look out for, and how to help me treat it.
Be aware that depression is not uncommon in people with diabetes.  Some common signs include unusual moodiness, sadness, or irritability, not enjoying activities the person usually enjoys, and /or sleeping more than usual.  Recognize the symptoms so that together we can address the problem.


My promise to you

There are days that I just want to ignore my diabetes, and I might not react nicely to your support.   I promise to do my best to remember that you are supporting me because you care about me, even if I don’t always seem to appreciate it.

how to support someone with diabetes 3


Jill Sabin Garner received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (summa cum laude) from New York University. A Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator, she serves on the boards of both the New York State Coordinating Body and the Metropolitan New York Group of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.