Diabetes can be a very demanding condition to manage, as diabetics have to constantly watch what they eat, keep tabs on their blood sugar levels, and take medications to keep sugar levels steady.
If you know someone living with diabetes, you may be concerned about their physical and mental well-being as it is a chronic condition that requires lifelong maintenance. Since the disease cannot be ‘cured’ providing support, comfort, and kindness are key to helping your loved one cope.
Like all diseases, diabetes too comes with its share of myths and misconceptions. For example, it is often assumed that having a major sweet tooth can lead to the condition or it is unsafe for people with diabetes to exercise.
Our recommendation is to read about how diabetes works, understand the ways in which you could prevent emergencies or complications, and gain knowledge about medications and other useful information related to the disease. You can get more insight into this if you accompany your loved one to the doctor or their diabetes education class.
If someone in your family has been diagnosed with diabetes, it becomes a priority for the entire family to inculcate some healthy habits into the daily routine. Try and get everyone onboard with nutritious meals, and leading an active lifestyle.
Remember that the person who has diabetes is responsible for managing the condition, not you. Don’t nag or second guess the care plan that your loved one is already following. Don’t police their meals or snacks. Living with diabetes is hard work, and the best way to make a difference is by providing encouragement and support instead of unwanted advice and scolding.
Stress is one of the major contributors to high sugar levels and makes it harder to control diabetes. Since managing diabetes is stressful enough, encouragement and support can help your loved one navigate the tough phases. Nudge your loved one to talk about their feelings and frustrations. Undertaking activities like meditating, walking, gardening or watching a light-hearted movie can also help to reduce stress levels.
Swings in blood sugar can leave one feeling jittery, confused, anxious, or irritable. Having control of your sugar levels is one way to avoid these emotional ups and downs. Support groups are a great way for your loved one to open up about their problems and frustrations, and find people who are going through the same condition. Additionally, a diabetes coach or counsellor can provide individual attention and guidance on difficult issues.
Diabetes is not only about the fluctuating sugar levels, but it affects many parts of the body, including one’s reproductive organs. Women with diabetes are more likely to develop urinary tract infections, while nerve damage can cause vaginal dryness and make sex uncomfortable or sometimes even painful. In men, diabetes can often result in erectile dysfunction. Diabetes also tends to affect a person’s self-esteem, which can make them disinterested in sex.
Knowing about these different issues will help you understand what your loved one is going through on a very personal level.
A condition like diabetes requires medical as well as emotional support. From finding the right doctor to finding the right dietician, diabetes requires a whole team of professionals, friends, and family to help a loved one cope.