Lifestyle

From newly diagnosed to veteran T1Ds: family

October 30, 2021

Do you ever feel isolated because of your diabetes? Even with supportive family and friends, managing diabetes 24/7 can still feel like a pretty lonely job!  

In my years of coaching people with type 1 diabetes, I’ve learned that the connections and support within a diabetes community can be incredibly transformative for our clients. The number one thing we hear from our clients at the end of our programs is “I don’t feel alone anymore.” That is the power of community.

But what about the important people in your life who don’t have T1D?  

They might not be able to relate in the same way as a fellow T1D, but encouragement from parents, siblings, significant others, and friends is still meaningful and important.

When we don’t feel supported by our family and friends, we tend to:

  • Hide our diabetes struggles
  • Feel ashamed of our condition
  • Ignore our health for fear of inconveniencing our loved ones
  • Try to do everything ourselves rather than ask for help

Supporting someone with type 1 diabetes can be confusing and complicated. However, we’ve created this blog post as a resource to help family and friends of people living with T1D understand how they can be of better support!

If you’re someone with T1D, send this to your T1D support squad so they know how they can better support you practically and emotionally.

FOR NEWLY DIAGNOSED T1D FAMILY + FRIENDS

No matter who you are, it isn’t easy to learn that you have a chronic disease like type 1 diabetes. It can feel scary, impossible, overwhelming, or frustrating. A supportive family and healthy home environment can have a long-lasting impact on physical, mental, and emotional wellness with T1D. Your role as a family or friend is to help build a strong foundation for the T1D in your life. And you can do this by educating yourself and nurturing a safe space for them to thrive.

Practical Support:

You’re wondering: How can I be more supportive of someone who has just been diagnosed with T1D?

  • Learn as much as you can about T1D. Understand that it’s a lot more than “not eating sugar” and giving insulin
  • Offer to help your T1D with appointments, supply orders, and health insurance questions, and research
  • Carry a few extra snacks in your car or purse to have on hand in case of a low blood sugar
  • Consider meal timing and shared movement opportunities that the whole family can participate in

Emotional Support:

You’re wondering: What can I do to ease the emotional burden of T1D?

  • Ask your T1D how it feels when they are going low or high, or what it is like to wear a pump or CGM.
  • Learn to recognize the symptoms and ask how you can help when those moments occur. (Helping might look like finding a snack OR simply understanding how they are feeling.)
  • Support lifestyle choices and decisions that your loved one makes for their diabetes care. Asking them, “Should you be eating that?” only adds frustration.
  • Give them space to build confidence and reclaim independence.
  • Encourage your loved ones and acknowledge their hard work.

“Family members are often an integral component of the daily context for self-care. Family members often strongly influence the foods brought into the patient’s household and prepared for meals. The family also can influence whether patients have time for physical activity among other competing time demands, and influence where health fits in the hierarchy of family priorities.” – Rosland and Piette

FOR THE T1D VETERAN’S FAMILY + FRIENDS

As a person lives with T1D for a while, their support needs evolve as well. Your role might change from directly helping someone manage their T1D to empowering them and setting them up for optimizing their management.

Practical Support:

You’re wondering: How can I be a better supporter for the T1D in my life who’s had it for a while?

  • Have a conversation about what kind of support would be most helpful for your loved one
  • Show your commitment without being overbearing or too involved.
  • Try to find a balance between showing support and allowing independence.
  • Communicate plans for eating out and other activities so that your loved one can feel prepared and able to fully enjoy the experience

Emotional Support:

You’re wondering: What can I do to be emotionally sensitive to the daily challenges of living with T1D?

  • Encourage self-care practices like meditation or movement
  • Partner in researching T1D specific support coaching groups/therapy
  • Provide a safe space for venting frustration and a listening ear for talking through challenges, but know that you don’t always have to have the answers.
  • Assist with problem-solving and decision-making
  • Celebrate successes and hard work like A1C drops! (T1D is never easy, even when it appears to be!)

Diabetes is a challenge. And when you’re backed by a crew of cheerleaders, advocates, and people who love you, anything is possible. Just reading this post is an act of love and support.

We would love to hear from our non-T1D supporters, what was your biggest takeaway from this post?