An estimated 1.7 million Australians live with diabetes, 280 more people develop the condition every day and a further 500,000 people remain undiagnosed. With diabetes on the rise, it’s likely that you currently know – or will know – someone with diabetes.
Diabetes is a complex condition that requires careful day-to-day management, which can be overwhelming for some, especially those newly diagnosed with the condition. But when people have the support of their partner, family, friends, colleagues and healthcare team, they are able to better manage their diabetes.
Living with diabetes doesn’t just have physical consequences, but it can also have a psychological impact, with many commonly experiencing denial, anxiety, shame and guilt following their diabetes diagnosis.
Amcal Senior Pharmacist James Nevile said it was important that more Australians become aware of how diabetes affects the whole person, and the role they can play in recognising when someone may need support.
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“Some people might feel uncomfortable telling others they have diabetes, and this is often due to a fear of discrimination.
“However, it is more beneficial for those with diabetes to talk about their condition and help educate those around them. Without a positive support network, people can feel socially isolated and neglect their diabetes management.
“We need to be more understanding and accepting of people living with diabetes, to promote better diabetes management and encourage those at risk to get tested,” Mr Nevile said.
There is no one-size fits all approach to supporting a loved one with diabetes. Some people may feel completely in control and resist advice, while others might be quietly struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis. However, James Nevile has the following advice for those wishing to offer support to a loved one with diabetes,
Make the effort to understand the complexities
Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s condition. Ask them to tell you about what it’s like to live with diabetes, and how they manage their condition on a daily basis. Research diabetes online or consider joining a diabetes support group to gain different perspectives. The more you know, the better supported and accepted your loved one will feel.
Check in on how they’re feeling
It’s important to keep an interest in their health, but be careful not to over-manage. Avoid being critical of lapses in their diet, exercise or medication routine, particularly if they’re finding it difficult to maintain control. Instead, be encouraging because if complications do arise with their diabetes or general health, they’ll be more receptive to discussing it with you.
Find ways that you can support them in achieving their goals
See whether your loved one has set goals to manage their diabetes. If not, offer to help them with this step and identify if any barriers might impede them from achieving their goals. Ask how you can help them accomplish their goals, this might include healthy meal planning, or exercising together on a regular basis.
Be a good listener
It can be helpful to understand how your friend, relative, colleague or partner views their diabetes to know how you can best support them. They’ll likely be more receptive to your advice or proposed solutions if you give them the opportunity to talk through any concerns and how they’re coping with stress.
Ask about whether they would like help with their management
Once your loved one understands that you’re here to help, ask whether there is anything you can do to support with their management. This might include setting medication reminders, accompanying them to appointments with their health care team, or encouraging them to check their blood sugar regularly. Above all, it’s important your loved one knows that they can live well with diabetes, so having a positive attitude is key!