Last week our blog was about dealing with “Food Police”. This week we are focusing on diabetes etiquette for people who DON’T have diabetes – well-meaning family members and friends of those with diabetes!
DON’T offer unsolicited advice about eating or other aspects of diabetes. You may mean well, but giving advice about someone’s personal habits, especially when it is not requested, isn’t very nice. Besides, many of the popularly held beliefs about diabetes (“you should just stop eating sugar”) are out of date or just plain wrong.
DO realize and appreciate that diabetes is hard work. Diabetes management is a full-time job that wasn’t applied for, didn’t want, and can’t quit. It involves thinking about what, when, and how much is eaten, while factoring in exercise, medication, stress, blood sugar monitoring, and so much more – each and every day.
DON’T tell horror stories about your grandmother or other people with diabetes you have heard about. Diabetes is scary enough and stories like these are not reassuring! Besides, we now know that with good management, odds are good you can live a long, healthy, and happy life with diabetes.
DO offer to join your friend/loved on in making healthy lifestyle changes. Not having to be alone with efforts to change, like starting an exercise program, is one of the most powerful ways that you can be helpful. After all, healthy lifestyle changes can benefit everyone!
DON’T look so horrified when you see someone check their blood sugars or give themselves an injection. It is not fun for them. Checking blood sugar and taking medications are things they must do to manage diabetes well. If they have to hide while they do so, it makes it harder!
DO ask how you might be helpful. If you want to be supportive, there may be lots of little things that would be appreciated. However, what is needed most may be very different than what you think is needed, so please ask first.
DON’T offer thoughtless reassurances. When you first learn someone has diabetes, you may want to reassure them by saying things like, “Hey, it could be worse; you could have cancer!” This won’t make anyone feel better. And the implicit message seems to be that diabetes is no big deal. However, diabetes (like cancer) IS a big deal.
DO be supportive of self-care efforts. Help the person with diabetes set up an environment for success by supporting healthy food choices. Honor their decision to decline a particular food, even when you really want them to try it. You are most helpful when you are not being a source of unnecessary temptation.
DON’T peek or comment on glucose numbers without asking first! These numbers are private unless shared! It is normal to have numbers that are sometimes too low or too high. Your unsolicited comments about these numbers can add to the disappointment, frustration and anger being felt!
DO offer your love and encouragement. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares can be very helpful and motivating.
Resource: Behavioral Diabetes Institute