Diabetes Tips for Family Members

Organization: Author:
Linda Kerr, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, CDE, Director, Diabetes Program, Long Beach Medical Center
long beach memorial diabetes program

When a member of your family is diagnosed with an illness it is only natural that you want to help them. However, what are you to do if a family member is diagnosed with diabetes? Though it may seem like there is not much you can do to help, it is always important to support your loved ones and help them manage their diabetes by learning what they can do to help themselves.

Erase the Stigma

The most important thing to remember when a family member is diagnosed with diabetes is that it is not their fault. There are many factors that lead to a person developing diabetes, such as hereditary factors or a genetic predisposition, and placing blame on the individual is never the way to go.

There is no such thing as a “diabetic” diet. The overall nutrition standards set for people with diabetes are exactly the same as those for everyone else. Portion and carbohydrate control are key to maintaining a balanced diet. It is important that those with diabetes consider what they are eating and how it will work with the rest of their meal.

The only foods that people with diabetes are advised against consuming are juices and sodas. Focusing on eating well, rather than making special meals for a family member with diabetes, will help to teach families the importance of staying healthy. Nobody is different when it comes to eating well.

Staying Active is Essential

Staying active and exercising is also a universal goal. The recommended amount of daily activity for people with diabetes is 30 minutes a day, the same standard set for all other adults. In order to make sure their bodies are functioning properly, people with diabetes need to stay active and do their 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. These workouts can be split into two 15-minute workouts. The recommended method of exercise is a brisk walk at a rate where you can speak comfortably without losing your breath.

Know Your Numbers

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help a family member who has been newly diagnosed with diabetes is teach them to “know their numbers.” Keeping track of your progress is essential to staying healthy when you have diabetes.
Remind your family member that they should always track their:

  • Hemoglobin A1c - less than 7
  • Blood pressure - under 140/80
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol -  under 100

Maintaining steady records can help your family member address any abnormalities and discuss changes with their physician. It’s important to ask your physician what your numbers are when they do tests even if they say they are normal.

You also should make sure that your family member is visiting their physician at least once yearly for a physical. Maintaining a high level of support is the key to successfully partnering with a family member to manage their diabetes.

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