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3 Tips to Help Your Loved One Help Themselves

By Richard R. Rubin, PHD, CDE

No doubt, it can be frustrating to watch your loved one who has diabetes scarf down a sugary snack, skip a blood sugar test or lay around on the couch all day instead of exercising. 

You care about this person, so you want them to make the best health-related decisions. If you’re constantly “reminding” your loved one about eating, testing and exercising, however, it can come off more like “nagging” and even put a strain on your relationship. So how do you convince someone to make better choices without joining the ranks of the “diabetes police”? Try these tips.

Set an example. The saying is true: out of sight, out of mind. If you keep unhealthy foods out of the house, you’ll make it easier for your loved one to skip these foods. If you’re the primary food shopper, don’t put cookies, cakes, chips and heavily processed foods in your cart. And if your loved one with diabetes does the food shopping or you share the task, both of you should agree to change your eating habits. For example, you can tell your loved one, “I have been feeling unhealthy lately, and I want to eat more fruits and vegetables. So let’s buy some fresh produce. And we should try whole-wheat pasta, breads and cereals so we get more nutrients and fiber from what we eat.”

Create visual reminders. Sometimes people with diabetes simply forget to test their blood sugar, especially if they were recently diagnosed and it hasn’t yet become a habit. Try printing out a chart, like a glucose tracker, and pinning it up in a high-traffic location (such as the refrigerator) where they’re likely to see it often. You can also make it easier by giving them their testing supplies or leaving them where they’ll see them. Last, buy a medication alarm clock that can go off multiple times a day or even set their cell phone to remind them when it’s time to test or take their medication.

Make exercise a group activity. It will be more difficult for your loved one to be a couch potato if the rest of the family is going on a hike or bike ride. Choose an activity you know they’ll enjoy. For example, if they love skating, have everyone hit the local roller rink. Another option is to create a sense of accomplishment by both signing up for, say, a walk/run that raises money for diabetes research, and then training for the race together. If your loved one is slacking, remind everyone how great it will feel crossing the finish line.  

Published March 2012

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