Loving and Supporting a Loved One with Diabetes: A Guide for CaregiversSkip to content

Helping Your Loved One with Diabetes

Published: Dec 30, 2022. Last Updated: Jan 9, 2023.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[1], there are more than 34 million people in the United States who have diabetes, and that’s 10 percent of the population. Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose, a type of sugar that is an important source of energy for the body.

If not properly managed, diabetes can have serious health complications, including an increased risk of heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney disease. If your loved one is struggling with this disease, know that there are ways to help or offer them support.

Understanding Diabetes

The path to offering help to a loved one who has diabetes starts with understanding how the disease works. With an adept knowledge on it, you can help your loved one plan out how to live a healthier life. Here are what you need to know about the different types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults. It is not caused by lifestyle factors, such as being overweight or having a poor diet. This is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels by allowing sugar to enter cells for energy. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes may include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and is typically diagnosed in adults, but it is becoming more common in children and young adults. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with lifestyle factors, such as being overweight, having a poor diet, and lack of physical activity.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It usually goes away after pregnancy, but it increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin during pregnancy. This can lead to high blood sugar levels in the mother, which can affect the health of both the mother and the baby.

Symptoms of gestational diabetes may include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue

Diabetes is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, so it is important to understand the types, symptoms, and causes of diabetes in order to manage the condition effectively and prevent complications. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms of diabetes, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Managing Diabetes

Managing diabetes demands an in-depth awareness of the disease, as it is a chronic condition that affects how the body processes blood sugar (glucose). People with diabetes have high levels of glucose in their blood, which can lead to serious health complications if not properly managed. If your loved one is diagnosed with diabetes, they should be well aware of what makes their blood sugar rise or fall. Read on to learn the various factors that can control and keep your loved one’s blood sugar within the right range:

Diet and nutrition

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial for managing diabetes. People with diabetes should aim to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods in their diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. It is also important to limit the intake of processed and sugary foods, as well as unhealthy fats.

People with diabetes may also need to pay attention to portion sizes and timing of meals. For example, people with type 1 diabetes may need to eat smaller, more frequent meals to help maintain stable blood sugar levels. People with type 2 diabetes may benefit from eating larger, more protein-rich meals to help slow the absorption of carbohydrates and regulate blood sugar levels.

Exercise and physical activity

Physical activity is an essential part of managing diabetes. Regular exercise can help improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease and other complications. It is recommended that people with diabetes get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.

Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include walking, cycling, swimming, dancing and even weight training. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting an exercise program, as people with diabetes may have unique considerations, such as the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Medications and insulin

Medications and insulin are important tools for managing diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes typically need to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to help regulate blood sugar levels. People with type 2 diabetes may need to take oral medications or insulin injections to help lower blood sugar levels.

Follow the prescribed treatment plan and take medications as directed which includes monitoring blood sugar levels regularly and adjusting the dosage as needed. It is also important to communicate with a healthcare professional if there are any concerns or side effects.

Monitoring blood sugar levels

Monitoring blood sugar levels is an important part of managing diabetes. People with diabetes should test their blood sugar levels regularly using a blood glucose meter. The results of these tests can help inform treatment decisions and identify any potential problems or complications.

There are different target blood sugar levels for people with diabetes, depending on the type of diabetes and other factors. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate target blood sugar levels and the best method for monitoring blood sugar levels.

Emotional Support to Loved Ones with Diabetes

Living with a chronic illness such as diabetes can be emotionally challenging for both the person affected and their loved ones. It is important for caregivers to provide emotional support and understanding to help their loved one cope with the stresses and challenges of living with diabetes. Here are some tips for providing emotional support to loved ones with diabetes:

  • Be an active listener: When your loved one is feeling overwhelmed or upset, it is important to listen attentively and try to understand their perspective. Avoid interrupting or offering solutions too quickly, and try to validate their feelings by acknowledging their emotions.

  • Offer emotional support: Show your loved one that you are there for them and that you care about their well-being. Offer words of encouragement and support, and try to be positive and optimistic. You can also offer practical support, such as helping with tasks or taking care of errands.

  • Encourage self-care: Help your loved one prioritize their own well-being by encouraging them to take breaks, relax, and engage in activities that they enjoy. Self-care is important for managing stress and maintaining physical and emotional health.

  • Connect with support groups: Support groups can be a great resource for individuals living with a chronic illness. Encourage your loved one to connect with others who are going through similar experiences and provide emotional support and understanding to one another. Healthcare professionals, such as therapists and social workers, can also provide valuable support and guidance for managing the emotional challenges of living with diabetes.

  • Be patient: Caring for a loved one with diabetes can be challenging and frustrating at times. It is important to be patient and understanding, and to recognize that managing a chronic illness is a continuous process. Encourage your loved one to seek help when they need it, and offer your support and understanding every step of the way.

Practical Tips in Caring for a Loved One with Diabetes

As a caregiver for a loved one with diabetes, it can be overwhelming to think about all the ways you can help them manage their condition. However, know that your assistance can play a crucial role for your loved one to continue to live a healthy, happy life. Here are some practical tips for caring for loved ones with diabetes:

Help with medication management and monitoring blood sugar levels:

One of the most important things you can do for your loved one with diabetes is to help them manage their medications and monitor their blood sugar levels. This includes reminding them to take their medication on time, helping them refill their prescriptions, and assisting with insulin injections if needed. You can also help them check their blood sugar levels regularly using a glucose meter, and encourage them to record their readings in a logbook. By staying on top of their medication and blood sugar levels, you can help your loved one avoid complications and maintain good blood sugar control.

Encourage a healthy lifestyle:

Eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are all important for managing diabetes. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one make healthy lifestyle choices by preparing nutritious meals, encouraging them to get moving, and helping them make healthy food choices when eating out. You can also encourage them to quit smoking if they smoke, as smoking can increase their risk of complications from diabetes.

Communicate with healthcare professionals:

Your loved one's healthcare team, which may include a primary care doctor, a diabetes educator, and a registered dietitian, can provide valuable support and guidance for managing diabetes. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one communicate with their healthcare team by asking questions, taking notes, and sharing information about their health and lifestyle. You can also advocate for your loved one's needs and ensure that they are receiving the best care possible.

Plan for emergencies:

People with diabetes may be at risk of developing complications such as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). It's important to be prepared for these emergencies and know how to respond. You can help your loved one by keeping a supply of glucose tablets or other fast-acting sugar sources on hand, and by knowing how to recognize the signs of low or high blood sugar. You should also have a plan in place for what to do in case of an emergency, such as calling 911 or seeking medical attention.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf^

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About the Author

JM Guiang

Writer & Researcher

Elder Guide LLC

Inspired by fresh ideas and wise words, JM Guiang, Communications degree-holder, and Elder Guide writer, finds profound joy in writing quality content and insightful articles that redefine seniors' perspective on aging with grace and confidence.