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How to Support a Loved One With Diabetes

How to Support a Loved One With Diabetes

Here’s what you can do for your partner or spouse who has the condition.

Gina Shaw
WebMD Magazine – Feature

Reviewed by
Michael Dansinger, MD

If your spouse or partner has diabetes, you may sometimes feel like you worry more about the condition and the care involved than he or she does.

John Zrebiec, LICSW, director of behavioral health services at Joslin Diabetes Center, says he sees a lot of this. “You can cheerlead and encourage and support, but you can’t just take over and do it for them. That can lead to a great deal of worry.”

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Even so, you don’t have to sit helplessly on the sidelines. “Research is very clear that the more support a person with diabetes gets from their family members, the easier it is for them to manage it,” Zrebiec says. “But for each person, the question of what support looks like may be different.”

So what can you do?

Talk with your spouse about what he needs from you and the other people around him. “For example, when your spouse has low blood sugar, what does he want you to do? Run and get juice? Say something? If so, what? What words, what tone?” Zrebiec asks.

“For some people, if their spouse goes with them to the supermarket and keeps an eye on everything in the basket, it feels nurturing and supportive. For others, it really makes them mad.” Talk about your partner’s needs and expectations when things are calm, so when something like a low blood sugar episode hits, you’re prepared.

Focus on the positive. “People with diabetes can be really self-critical and self-blaming,” Zrebiec says. “It helps if their partners and family members can counterbalance that by reminding them of the positive steps they’ve taken.”

Understand what realistic goals are. “Often, family members think that if you do everything you’re supposed to, you’ll have perfect blood sugar control,” he says. “So, if it’s not perfect, the person with diabetes must be doing something wrong. But you can do everything you’re supposed to do and still get blood sugar numbers that make no sense.”

Encourage your spouse to focus on rewards rather than consequences. “Consequences and complications don’t motivate someone for long. It’s what you get out of something that motivates you, not what you lose if you don’t do it,” Zrebiec says. So instead of warning your spouse about foot amputation or blindness, remind him about what he loves and wants to be able to do, like playing golf more or walking your daughter down the aisle.

Find support for you. Look for support groups at your diabetes center or online. You can start with the American Diabetes Association’s “I Love Someone With Diabetes” message board or WebMD’s Diabetes Community.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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