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How to Ask Your Family for Support

You’ve probably heard that diabetes can run in families. But over the years, I’ve learned that diabetes is a family disease in other ways as well. All too often, diabetes care becomes a battleground, with daily skirmishes over eating, exercising or blood sugar testing. “He’s driving me crazy! He’s not even trying to take care of himself,” are words I’ve heard to describe how a family member is not taking good enough care of his or her diabetes.

This kind of anger is bad for everyone. When you have diabetes, you need less stress, not more. You might need help to take the best possible care of yourself, but you don’t need to be pushed. Sometimes it might seem like your family has joined the “diabetes police,” monitoring your every action, and calling you out every time they think you are straying from the straight and narrow.

Where the “police” come from

Why do people join the diabetes police? In most cases, I’ve found that the motivation for this is understandable, even if the action isn’t. People try to make their loved ones take better care of their diabetes because they are frustrated and scared of what will happen if they don’t. They have an idea of the way diabetes care is “supposed to be,” and it frightens and upsets them when that’s not what they see happening.

Your natural reaction to being pushed may be to dig in your heels and push back; it’s simple human nature. Then taking care of your diabetes can quickly become a battle for control. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you want to get more help—and fewer hassles—from your family, I’ve got some suggestions: 

Be honest with yourself

Let’s be clear: No one manages diabetes perfectly. There are times when you eat things you shouldn’t, skip a blood sugar test or choose to plop down in front of the TV instead of heading out for a walk.

Occasional departures from optimal self-care are one thing; letting lots of things slide and seeing your blood sugar levels skyrocket is another matter.

You need to be honest with yourself about how well you are meeting your own standards. If you find lots of room for improvement, you might start to see some of the things that worry your family.

Think of something specific you can change

Maybe you want to eat a little healthier by consuming less fat. Maybe you want to start walking three or four times a week, or to test your blood sugar level one more time each day or learn more about a new diabetes medication you just heard about. Whatever you most want to change, set a specific goal.

How family can help

Be specific. If you want to cut fat at dinner, for instance, could family members prepare low-fat dishes or keep high-fat condiments out of the house? The more specific (and realistic) your request, the more likely you are to get it. This approach is likely to turn most family members from pushers into supporters.

Give thanks for the help you get

Once you feel like you’re getting more help and fewer hassles, be sure to show your appreciation. You want family members to know they are doing the right things to support you. The results can be great: better health today and in the long run, plus closer, stronger connections with some of the most important people in your life.

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