November 29, 2023

The Impact of Diabetes on Family and Relationships: Navigating the Journey Together

There’s no denying it: living with diabetes can be difficult. If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, you’ll need to put a great deal of time and effort into keeping it under control. And since diabetes is a chronic disease,…


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There’s no denying it: living with diabetes can be difficult. If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, you’ll need to put a great deal of time and effort into keeping it under control. And since diabetes is a chronic disease, it doesn’t simply “go away” (even if years or decades have passed since your diagnosis).

According to the CDC, approximately 28.7 million people in the US have been diagnosed with diabetes. If someone you care about is among them, they need a robust support system in order to deal with these challenges and others. Although helping a family member manage diabetes isn’t always simple, these tips can make life a bit easier for them—and for you.

How Can Diabetes Affect Families and Relationships?

Even if you don’t personally have diabetes, a loved one’s diabetes diagnosis can have a surprisingly significant impact on your own life. If you’re a member of someone’s support system, their diabetes could affect your:

Mental Health

As is the case for other chronic health conditions, diabetes is often a large source of stress for people living with this disease. Successfully managing diabetes involves making a number of lifestyle changes, and that can be difficult at the best of times. Furthermore, complications like nerve damage, heart disease, and vision loss are closely associated with diabetes—and all of these can be anxiety-inducing in their own right.

People involved in a diabetes patient’s support system can easily find themselves dealing with similarly intense worries. When they feel nervous about things like making sure they know enough about diabetes and planning ahead for emergencies, it can be challenging for caregivers to feel like they can help in any meaningful way.

Finances

Between medications, visits to the doctor, diabetes supplies, and more, the annual cost associated with managing diabetes can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Even if your loved one has insurance, this means life with diabetes can be an expensive proposition, and they might need financial support from you or other family members from time to time. Making matters worse, the likelihood of developing diabetes complications increases with age—and complications can cause a person’s cost of treatment to skyrocket.

Physical Health

It’s not hard to see how a diabetes diagnosis can affect a person’s physical health. Diabetes causes many different symptoms, including frequent urination, extreme hunger and thirst, fatigue, and numbness and tingling in a patient’s hands and feet. Beyond that, diabetes patients need to take steps to lower their long-term complication risk.

What might come as a surprise is the fact that diabetes can also cause physical symptoms in others. That’s not to say this disease is contagious, of course—instead, the previously-mentioned anxieties associated with helping a loved one manage diabetes can result in chronic stress. This stress can go on to cause a number of health issues, from headaches and obesity to high blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, stress may even contribute to diabetes itself!

Understand the Genetics of Diabetes

When a family member is dealing with diabetes, it can take a toll on your financial, mental, and physical well-being. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s important to understand that diabetes can run in families. Thus, if a person in your family develops diabetes, your own risk of prediabetes and diabetes is higher than average.

However, diabetes isn’t necessarily inevitable in this situation. Preventative steps such as creating a nutrition plan, getting more physical activity, and setting a goal for weight loss can help you delay type 2 diabetes or prevent it entirely.

How Can You Support Loved Ones with Diabetes?

While being there for a loved one with diabetes can be tricky at times, working together can make this easier for everyone in your family. You can support family members with diabetes by:

Protecting Your Children at School

If you’re the caregiver of a child with diabetes, you’ll need to make sure they’re ready to manage this condition—even when you aren’t with them. To help your child control diabetes at school, you can:

  • Create a diabetes medical management plan
  • Talk to school staff members about your child’s health needs
  • Make sure your child can use a blood sugar monitor to track their blood sugar levels
  • Pack healthy, diabetes-friendly lunches

Staying Healthy as a Family

Managing diabetes can be an isolating experience, especially when you need to make large-scale lifestyle changes on your own. That means starting a diabetic diet or exercise plan along with your loved one is a fantastic way to support them in their diabetes journey. They’ll get valuable moral support in their efforts to control their condition, and you’ll reduce your own odds of encountering type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.

Being Willing to Talk

The physical health implications of diabetes are worth taking seriously, but it can be all too easy to focus on this side of the disease at the expense of everything else. Instead, make a point of having conversations with your loved one with diabetes and other family members about the frustrations, anxieties, and everyday wins associated with diabetes management. By doing so, the people in your family will have a chance to vent—and to support one another.

Looking Out for Hypoglycemia

Low blood sugar levels (or “hypoglycemia”) are all too common among people with diabetes, and this needs to be treated ASAP. Ask your loved one what to do if you notice their hypoglycemia symptoms. While these symptoms can vary from one diabetes patient to the next, well-known warning signs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Hunger
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Anger
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating/chills
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Blurred vision

Getting External Support

No matter how much you care about supporting your loved one, your family shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of diabetes management alone. Diabetes support groups exist for this very reason—by participating in these groups, your family member with diabetes can talk about diabetes with other people actively managing this condition. To get started, look for a reliable support group online or ask your family member’s healthcare team for guidance.

How US MED Can Help

While diabetes management can be stressful, stress can also have an impact on people involved with a family member’s diabetes support system. At the same time, the genetics of diabetes mean you’re more likely to develop this disease if someone in your family has it. But when you deal with this situation head-on by taking common-sense steps as a family, you can help your loved ones control diabetes while improving your own mental and physical health.

Whether you’re learning about diabetes for the first time or you simply want to refresh your knowledge of this disease, US MED has you covered. Our diabetes management blog has all the information you need about this topic, while our recipe database is full of delicious, nutritious meals designed to fit any diabetic diet. And if you’re looking for affordable diabetes supplies, you’re in the right place—we’re a reputable supplier of blood sugar monitors, insulin pumps, and much more. Take a look at what we have for sale today!

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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