Resources for Friends and Family: How to Support Your Loved One with Diabetes

Living with diabetes is no easy task, but sometimes the role of family and friends is overlooked. This article is for people living with someone that has diabetes.

Wanting to support someone you love is natural, but it can be difficult to do if they are suffering from a disease that you know nothing about. Diabetes, like many other diseases, is complex. From the terminology to the medication, it can be overwhelming.

Finding the right ways to help your loved one is key. No one wants to be the annoying friend that nags about exercising and eating healthy, but sometimes it’s hard to approach the situation the right way. Below you will find tips and resources that will help you better support your loved one.

Go to appointments with your loved one. The best way to learn about diabetes and their diabetes in particular is to be present during doctor visits. That way you will have a better sense of what their routine is, the terminology of diabetes, and, you can always ask their doctor questions during the visit. Everyone’s diabetes is different and knowing about their diabetes will make it easier to be truly helpful.

Take a diabetes education class together. Joslin offers a number of classes, as do many hospitals nationwide (find listings here).

Type 2 diabetes can commonly be controlled with a healthy diet and exercise. By making a plan to exercise together, you’re not only making it easier for your loved one to stay on track towards a healthy lifestyle, but you’re holding yourself accountable as well. Also, try cooking new healthy meals once a week. By adding these habits to your daily life it will soon become a lifestyle.

One of the most important things you should know about diabetes are the symptoms that come along with it. If your loved one takes insulin or medication for their diabetes, they may be at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Be sure you know at the very least the symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack and what to do if it happens.

Do a little research yourself. Things, especially diseases, are always more intimidating when you don’t know much about them. Brush up on what A1C is so the next time your loved one gets tested you’ll know what the results mean. Know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and know what type your loved one has. Ask your loved one with diabetes to help you check YOUR blood glucose level, that way you know the feeling and can relate better to their daily routine.

Make diabetes a part of your life. Studies have shown that there is a significant emotional burden on family members of people with diabetes. 63 percent of family members expressed anxiety about the possibility of that person developing serious complications from their diabetes. If you know more about your loved one’s condition, the anxiety of “what if” will lessen.

Start by browsing Joslin’s Diabetes Information section on There you’ll find some basics of diabetes, including the difference between type 1 and type2, how to manage an eating plan, how to exercise safely, and tips for understanding medications.

Diabetes Forecast magazine is a great resource for anyone that cares about diabetes. Each issue is $1 for both the print and tablet edition and it’s filled with great recipes, fitness and well-being articles, and information on the newest diabetes technology.

Diabetes and You is another great resource for anyone who wants more information. Walgreens puts out a seasonal virtual magazine with the newest information on diabetes and what’s happening with research, new technologies, and more. You can also pick up hard copies at Walgreens locations. Joslin Diabetes Center has partnered with Walgreens for Diabetes and You, and many of the articles in the magazine are written by staff of Joslin.

JDRF, a leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research, has created the T1D for a day Text Challenge for the month of November (which is National Diabetes Month). During the challenge, participants step into the shoes of someone living with type 1 diabetes for 24 hours. During the 24-hour period multiple text messages are sent to you from professional snowboarder Sean Busby. Sean has lived with T1D for nine years and each message will show you what it’s like to manage the blood glucose testing, insulin injections, and dietary choices that T1D requires each day.

Diabetes is a self-managed disease; that’s why it is so importan

t for friends and family to be involved. The state of your loved one’s diabetes depends on his or her everyday life—what food to eat, which exercise to do, how to deal with stress. If you lead a healthy lifestyle and you encourage your loved one to join you, you will be helping them towards well-controlled diabetes.


  1. I am single(widowed) mom to 2 T1Ds. Peter is 26, diagnosed 2 years ago, and Robert 20,4 years ago. I walk a fine line trying to be supportive and not overwhelming them with my fears and anxieties. I realize they are young adults, but they will always be my babies, People say I must let them go, they are adults. I can never “let them go”, I just give then enough rope to allow them roam the world. I don’t think any parent really ever “lets go”. Diabetes adds another dimension. As I support them, they support me. I live in FL and both boys reside in Boston and are Joslin patients, and I am so grateful for their outstanding care. Thank you to all at The Joslin Clinic.

  2. My mom is 86 years old, has a form of vascular dementia, and still worries about me. I am almost 62 years old, have had T1 for 56 years, and I welcome people who love me and care enough about me to worry. I don’t think the “worry” goes away for anyone, but it is part of the process of living with this horrible disease. You just cannot let it rule your life.

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