When a friend or family member is diagnosed with diabetes, you might wonder how to best support them on their journey with this new diagnosis. By educating yourself on the disease and learning how to integrate their new lifestyle into your own, you’d be surprised how simple it is to help someone you care about feel a little more at ease when faced with living with a life-changing diagnosis.

It’s estimated that 425 million people are living with diabetes, and it’s predicted this number will only increase with time. “With diabetes being as prevalent as it is, it’s important that not only are patients educated on what it means to be diabetic, but also that those who are close to patients increase their knowledge of the disease, as well. Knowledge is power, and that is absolutely the case with diabetes,” says Samantha Rider, LDN, RD, CDE, certified diabetes educator with the Endocrinology Center of Southwest Louisiana, an affiliate of Imperial Health.

If they are willing and you are able, accompanying them to their appointments can also be helpful, especially in the early days after their diagnosis. “The better you understand what diabetes is, the better you can help them and yourself,” Rider says.

Diabetes education classes are usually recommended for the patient to help them learn more about their condition and its management. Rider says if you are able to attend these classes with your loved one, that is both a great way to show your support and learn more about their condition. These classes will help the patient and family identify appropriate blood sugar target ranges and provide suggestions for the appropriate response if blood sugars are high or low.  She explains the classes focus on an interactive experiences to help both the patient, their friends and family member to fell informed and comfortable making treatment decisions.

The good news is that through diet and exercise, and in some cases, medication, diabetes can be managed. When building any new habit, doing it with support makes the change a lot easier. “One of the best things you can do to show that support is to make the same changes they’re having to make,” says Rider. “Implementing a healthier lifestyle will be beneficial to your overall health, as well.  You might want to purchase a diabetic cookbook and plan out each week’s meals and then cook it together. Changes area easier to make with someone right by your side.”

When making lifestyle changes, it’s important to be patient. “For example,” says Rider, “someone newly diagnosed with diabetes won’t be able to just run to the grocery store anymore and rush through, picking up their usual items. They will need to read labels, and they’ll probably need help deciphering all the information a nutrition label can give. Be patient and respectful of their new situation and help if you can.”

Some patients are more sensitive than others about asking and receiving help with their new condition. “It’s important not to offer unsolicited advice or criticism,” says Rider. “If your loved one asks your opinion, offer it supportively, otherwise, find other ways to be a positive presence.”

When someone is first diagnosed, it can be easy to want to help them with everything and overcommit.  “Only agree to things you know you’re able to provide,” says Rider.  “If your loved one relies on you for things you aren’t able to do consistently, this will cause them more stress, and stress can affect blood sugar levels.”

When caring for someone with diabetes, it’s also important to still take care of yourself,” adds Rider. “You aren’t able to give to others when you aren’t at your best.  Your goal is to provide love, care, and support to help them manage their condition and live an easier and healthier life with it.”

For more information on diabetes diagnosis, treatment and education, call the Endocrinology Center of SWLA at (337) 310-3670.