1. Know the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia can be more devastating than hyperglycemia (which should be avoided as well), and can more quickly lead to end organ damage or even death.
In the event that you witness these symptoms, first check a blood sugar. The diabetic should be encouraged to drink if they are able. If they are unconscious, call 911 immediately. If he/she wears an insulin pump, know how to either turn it off or remove it.
2. Know what type of diabetes your loved one has and what medications they are taking, particularly if insulin is a part of their regimen.
Not everyone has to know the regimen, but someone besides the patient should know this information or have access to a medication list in case e patient is incapacitated.
3. Don’t be the food police.
“Should you eat THAT!? Food shaming just doesn’t help. Yes, we know we are diabetic. Yes, we are eating cake, or whatever treat. Being diabetic means making a lot of changes, not just to how and what we eat, but also to how we live our lives. A lot of us, just want to be normal, particularly at family gatherings. So if we eat a small slice of cake or pie or whatever- let it go. Many of us, make exchanges in our diets and make the necessary adjustments in exercise, food choices and medication.
4. Unsolicited advice is unwanted.
We know you mean well and are trying to help. Being diabetic is more complicated than it seems. So when you say…
“Well if you just watched your diet and exercise, you’ll be fine and maybe won’t need your insulin/medications.”
“My sister/friend/church member/random person at the grocery store/ Dr. Oz says/does/takes this (insert whatever “treatment” regimen here) and they have diabetes too…”
Expect a long sigh and perhaps even an eye roll. While diet and exercise are good things for all of us to do, hat may not change the need for insulin or medications. Also understand that every journey with diabetes is as different as the individuals with this disease.
5. We are regular people living with a disease that:
A. We didn’t ask for, and
B. We don’t want.
We are not perfect. We will not eat perfectly all the time. We need compassion, love and understanding.