November is Diabetes Awareness Month: Support systems are an important part of diabetes self-management

By Teresa Myers RN/CDE
Veterans Memorial Hospital

Diabetes mellitus affects over 24 million individuals in the United States alone. Diabetes is considered the leading cause of heart disease, kidney failure, lower limb amputations and blindness among adults with diabetes. Persons with diabetes must learn to manage their diabetes, which includes dietary and food restrictions, physical activity goals, monitoring blood sugar levels with finger sticks and medication management (for some this may include injections of medicines) to lower their blood sugar levels. Living with this structured lifestyle on a day-to-day basis can be very stressful for the person with diabetes.

Research has demonstrated a strong factor for a person with diabetes to successfully manage their self-care includes ongoing, unconditional support from their family and friends. Recruitment of family and friend support starts with the person who has the diabetes. Some persons with diabetes may be reluctant to accept assistance from family and friends because they do not want to be a burden. Sometimes a person with diabetes may shy away from asking for assistance because of past insensitive or “overly helpful” remarks and actions toward the person with diabetes.

The following DO and DON’T list was compiled by a group of people with diabetes for their family and support systems. It is a helpful Do and Don’t list you can use when offering support to a family member or friend with diabetes.

DON’T offer thoughtless reassurances. Your message to me is that diabetes is no big deal - diabetes is a big deal.
DON’T offer unsolicited advice or comments on my eating or other personal habits. When you do that I feel as if you are judging me.
DON’T look shocked when I check my blood sugars or give myself an injection. Checking blood sugars and taking injections help to keep me healthy.
DON’T tell me horror stories you have heard from other people or have seen on television, in movies or on social media.
DON’T peek at or comment on my blood sugar numbers. Your unsolicited comments only add to the anger, frustration and disappointment I am already feeling.
DO be supportive of my self-care choices. Please honor my decision to decline a food, even when you really want me to try it.
DO take the time to learn about diabetes. That way you can help to discredit myths about diabetes.
DO ask how to be helpful. There are many little things I could use your help with. Don’t assume you know what my needs are.
DO realize and appreciate that managing my diabetes is hard work. Diabetes management is 24/7 with no days off.                                                                                                                                          
DO offer to join me in eating well and exercising more often. Having someone to do these simple things with is incredibly helpful and keeps me motivated.
DO offer love and encouragement - this is the most important thing you can do!

The Diabetes Care Team at Veterans Memorial Hospital is always available to help you work out the challenges and stress you are experiencing with your diabetes treatment plan. Call Teresa Myers, RN, Certified Diabetes Educator, or Angie Mettille, RN, at 563-568-3411, Extension 172.

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