Whenever a friend or family member is diagnosed with a chronic illness, sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how to act or what to say to provide optimal support to someone you care about. A diagnosis of diabetes is no different from any other illness. You may be worried about your loved one, but unsure of how to act. Here are some tips to make helping them a little better.

Learn.
One of the best things you can do is learn about diabetes, especially from reputable sources such as the American Diabetes Association or the Joslin Diabetes Center. If your friend or relative allows, go to their doctor appointments with them and write things down for them so they can review the information later. Also, learn to recognize the symptoms of high and low blood sugar and how to treat each appropriately. You can actually save a life!

Model and Encourage Healthy Habits.
Although your relative may be on a “special diet” now, a diabetic diet is just a healthy, moderate carbohydrate diet. Everyone in the family can eat a diabetic diet for optimal health, even children. So, cook one meal for everyone and encourage all family members to eat foods that are low in sugar and low in fat.

Ask your diabetic friend or family member to exercise or walk with you. All diabetics need to exercise to help control blood sugar and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Be Sympathetic.
Remember, not everyone needs support in the same way. Ask your friend or family member how you can best support them. Do they need you at their doctor’s appointments? Do they need encouragement with exercise? Do they just want someone to listen? Do not push them if they want to do things on their own, but it’s ok to communicate that you are there for them if they need you.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to diabetic support groups or counselors to help you cope also, diabetes can be a challenging illness for everyone in the family.