Whether you’re a brother, mother, aunt, boyfriend, wife or best friend, knowing how to support the people in your life who live with diabetes isn’t all that easy. In fact, it can be very tricky. Mostly, because:
- We all have different needs when it comes to the kind of support we want in diabetes.
- You, as the person who loves us, really want to make sure we’re safe and healthy, and sometimes that might come off as overbearing or controlling or nosey…but really, you just really love us.
- We don’t always behave the most wonderfully when we’re having a high blood sugar or a low blood sugar. And while we can’t always control that behavior, it does make communication a lot harder for you, the person who loves us.
To help you be the best support system you can possible be for the person in your life with diabetes, here are a few tips:
- Ask us what we need. Personally, I don’t need someone to remind me to check my blood sugar or help me count my carbohydrates. That would irritate me. On the other hand, it is incredibly helpful when my boyfriend reminds me to take my Lantus before bed, and I sincerely appreciate when he asks me what my blood sugar is after I check. To me, that’s great support. I want him to know what my blood sugar is so he can be aware of how my mental state is. For others, those things might drive them nuts. Giving us support we don’t want isn’t going to help; in fact, it might lead us to blocking you out of our diabetes management altogether. Let us tell you, in our own words, how you can support us.
- Please don’t lecture us.Telling a person with diabetes what we should or should not be doing is only appropriate when we’ve asked for your insight. Telling us that we shouldn’t be eating that or shouldn’t be drinking this comes from your heart, we know, but 99% of the time, those lecture-like comments from you are going to come off as controlling. To add to it, we are in-charge of what we put in our bodies. If we choose to make less-than-healthy decisions, that is our responsibility. Sometimes you eat unhealthy things, too, right?
- Be patient when our blood sugars are too low or too high.This one is really hard, because sometimes when we’re having a low blood sugar, we seem more or less fine. We’re making coherent decisions, we’re moving our bodies normally–but inside, our brains are desperately begging for sugar in order to operate correctly. When our blood sugars are low, we literally do not have the fuel we need to think and communicate well, making it almost impossible to handle normal conversation. Instead of trying to talk to us, help us get glucose and don’t expect anything else from us until our number has come back up within the next 15 to 30 minutes.
When our blood sugars are high, we really want to curl into a ball and close our eyes. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes, it feels like a really quick bout of the flu (even when there are no ketones, and my blood sugar is barely over 200 mg/dL). To you, we might look fine because we can move and speak clearly, but we just don’t feel right. And we need your compassionate patience. If our blood sugar is high, please think of us as someone who is sick with the flu for a short-period of time, until our number comes back down. Sometimes, a quick walk can help. Other times, lying on the couch and waiting is the best idea. Let us tell you.
In the end, we truly appreciate you. We do. We have no idea what it’s like to live with, love, and watch someone we care about living with diabetes and not being able to truly know what they’re going through. You want to take care of us, keep us safe, and help us live a happy, healthy life. Thank you! Just be sure to remember that what feels like support to you might not be the kind of support we’re looking for. Ask us how you can be the best source of support in our lives with diabetes…but please, just don’t ask when our blood sugars are low.