Type 2 diabetes is very much a hands-on disease—in fact, most adults with it provide 90 percent of their own daily care. Because type 2 diabetes management lies in your hands, you need to stay on top of your regimen, and you need support from others in order to do so.
Support from your social group—spouse or partner, family, friends, groups, and your healthcare provider—helps you adopt healthy lifestyle modifications, adhere to type 2 diabetes treatment plans, and evade disease-related mental challenges like depression and anxiety. A 2004 study suggests that support from friends and family can boost self-esteem and optimism, pushing out the stress and depression that may come from living with an illness.
The benefits of support for people with type 2 diabetes have been shown repeatedly in years of studies. One review of several studies published between 2006 and 2013 discovered that in the United States and Europe, social support often helps your ability to begin and sustain diabetes management and can improve health outcomes. This was true even when the social support group was small.
Encouragement from your support group can come in different ways: emotional support, praise for good work, informational help, or direct help with medications and other diabetes tools. And your social network can help you maintain your self-care, blood sugar control, positive emotional status, relationships with your healthcare providers, and your overall longevity.
Who is in your social support group? And what can each member do to help you?
Spouse or partner
Your spouse or partner can play a key role in helping you successfully manage type 2 diabetes. He or she lives with you and is often the person you rely on most for emotional support. If he or she is supportive, you can be helped with your diet, medications, physical activity levels, and more. Some with type 2 diabetes may gravitate more to the support of professional caregivers rather than social networks including spouses and life partners, but those who have a partner often have much better daily care and illness management.
Your family can display empathy, encouragement, and love as you navigate this disease, and their supporting role cannot be overstated. In fact, a study published in Diabetes Care suggests that family support is the strongest and most consistent indicator of adherence to treatment.
While family and spouses can be instrumental in helping improve diabetes adherence, it’s important that you don’t feel nagged, criticized, or shamed for not doing everything perfectly—as shown in a 2004 study about family support for African American women with type 2 diabetes. If you regularly feel misunderstood or judged, communicate it to your loved ones. You can even point to this article as a reference to get them to quit it!
Friends and online groups
You can make friends in person with people who live nearby, and you can also make friends across the country online. Online platforms are a great place to meet other people who live with the challenges of type 2 diabetes—people who can empathize with you. You can chat about diabetes topics, share diabetic-friendly recipes, and support each other in ways no one else can. In studies, online support groups have also been shown to help people stick to their treatments and improve health outcomes. They might even help people lose excess weight.
Your healthcare team—endocrinologist, CDE, registered dietitian, eye specialist, cardiologist, and more—can be a great support to you as you manage your diabetes. They are there for you when questions and concerns arise, and they can encourage you to be better when you slip up on your regimen. To get the most out of your healthcare provider relationships, get to know your team members on a personal level, and look for traits like empathy, time management skills, and connectedness when you pick who will help you take care of your disease.
How have you felt love and encouragement from your support team? In what ways have they helped you improve your type 2 diabetes management? Comment below.