Jeanette Terry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old, and she has since lived with diabetes through difficult life transitions, including the teenage years, college, and having children. She addresses the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes—going beyond medical advice—to improve overall adherence and management.  

Diabetes can be a very lonely disease if you feel like there is no one to share your burden. But it doesn’t have to be. Studies have proven that individuals living with diabetes who have a strong support system are much more likely to have good diabetes management and better health outcomes. This statistic is great, but the trick is in the process of creating a strong support system.

Anyone can try to rely on those nearby, but if you choose to rely on people who aren’t going to help, then you are likely to have poor diabetes management results. You also have to be careful of those who mean well but don’t do anything productive to help and don’t have any knowledge about the disease. That is exactly the kind of predicament I found myself in recently with my support system.

My family is very supportive of me and my diabetes, but I realized recently that they don’t know a whole lot about diabetes. They know what they see from my life and how I manage my diabetes, but I am not always the best example. And when I'm having a bad day, I need someone to step in and remind me of what I should be doing to maintain good blood sugar control.

As a part of a successful support system, accountability is needed. If the only information the people closest to me have is what they have observed from me, how are they supposed to know what to do if I need help with something I couldn’t do myself? Once I realized that the people I am counting on to be my support in my diabetes management are just enabling me, I decided something had to change.

It is important to involve your family in your diabetes management because generally they are the people you are closest to and who you live with. Involving your family means educating them about the disease, especially the dos and don’ts so they can help you make healthy choices in your moments of weakness. Share your diabetes management plan and your health goals with your family so you can work as a team to accomplish the best diabetes control you are capable of accomplishing.

Make sure you sit down with your family and communicate concerns on both sides before you ask for their help so no one gets offended or confused, causing you to isolate yourself and get nowhere with your support system. One of the problems I have run into is that I get defensive when my blood sugar is either too high or too low, and if someone tries to help me by offering suggestions, I lash out. To combat this, my husband and I decided to create a code word that we can use when I need help but either don’t want to ask for it or don’t want to hear it. In situations where I shouldn’t have a second helping of dessert or am confused due to low blood sugar, my husband mentions our code word and it seems to bring me back to reality without making me upset.

I know this system won’t work for everyone, but it is important to sit down and find something that does work so everyone knows their role in your diabetes team and as a part of a successful support system.

If you don’t feel confident in your own knowledge of diabetes to educate those around you, find a local diabetes education class and invite your whole family to join you so you all can develop a comprehensive understanding of the disease. If there aren’t any local classes in your area, you can always find information online here at Diabetic Connect that you can share with your family. If your family members care about you, they will want to learn everything they can to help you live a healthier life.

By educating your family, you are not only helping yourself and your future, but you are also making a difference for the many people with diabetes your family members will meet in the future.

To-dos for making your family your support system:

  1. Educate your family on the dos and don’ts of diabetes care
  2. Share your diabetes management plan and health goals with your family
  3. Communicate concerns with your family so there’s no confusion
  4. Make a plan that requires your family to help you stay accountable for diabetes care
  5. Attend a diabetes education class with your family

To learn more about support for better diabetes care:

5 Things You Need to Know about Support for Diabetes
The Benefits of a Support System
Why Every Diabetic Needs a Support System