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8 Ways to Help Your Loved One Thrive
By Amanda Prost
Whether a friend or a family member has just received a diabetes diagnosis or has been living with the condition for years, you can play an important role in keeping the person healthy (without feeling like a nag) by taking a few small steps that can go a long distance. Click on for 8 ways to help your loved one stay in top shape.
1. Visit a diabetes educator—together
Diabetes education classes are a great way to learn about the condition, particularly if the diagnosis is new. And they're not just for people with diabetes. Tag along to the meetings. You'll not only gain a deeper understanding about diabetes, but you'll also learn your loved one's specific needs. Go on any visits to the dietitian, too, especially if you do most of the grocery shopping and cooking.
2. Watch the salt intake
While everyone needs to watch their sodium intake, that's especially true for people with diabetes, who are already at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. You can still serve up flavorful food—just rely on fresh or dried herbs and spices. Much sodium comes from processed, prepared or pre-packaged foods so be sure to read their labels.
3. Pick up a pair of pedometers
Staying active is key to keeping diabetes under control, and walking together regularly is a great way to encourage exercise—just clip on pedometers before you start. A University of Michigan study found that people with diabetes who used a pedometer when walking were more likely to meet—and even exceed—their fitness goals.
4. Offer foot massages
People with diabetes and related poor circulation can develop infections easily, so even minor foot problems can become a major concern. It's important to check your loved one's feet regularly, especially if the person can't do it alone. Foot massages are always an appreciated way to perform that service, and they also help promote circulation. If you spot any sores, wounds or signs of infection, call your loved one's doctor immediately.
5. Shrink your dinner plates
Your loved one already knows it's necessary to keep weight in check to lead a healthful lifestyle, but you're reluctant to remind them constantly to be careful about diet. An easy solution is to switch to using smaller dishes, such as salad plates or dessert plates. Cornell University researchers found that, on average, people eat 92% of the food they're served—no matter how big the serving. When you reduce the size of your dinner plate, everyone will automatically eat less without even being aware of doing so.
6. Stock up on seamless socks
Believe it or not, seams on socks are a major component in diabetes-related foot problems. That's because they increase pressure on the toes, potentially causing blisters or abrasions. And if your loved one has diabetic neuropathy—a common complication of diabetes wherein nerve damage can lead to numbness in the feet—it's especially troublesome because they won't notice when a problem starts. The answer is to buy seamless socks (available in some stores and at online retailers) that won't rub.
7. Make reservations
Maintaining proper blood sugar levels means sticking to a regular eating schedule. If the schedule of someone with diabetes gets thrown off by even a few hours, blood sugar can crash. So, if you're planning to eat out, make a reservation. That way, you can be assured that you won't have to wait for food.
8. Plan a weekly fun activity
Stress can have health implications for everyone, especially people with diabetes, who must be particularly careful about their blood-pressure levels due to their being at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Many studies show that having something to look forward to—whether it's a seeing a movie, playing board games or taking time for a hobby—can dramatically reduce chronic stress. And because you're the one designating "fun time," your loved one won't feel pressured or guilty about chores like bill paying or other tasks left undone.