to Some­one With Di­a­betes

Friends and fam­ily need sup­port, not judg­ment. Let this eti­quette guide show you the way

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade - - STAY HEALTHY - By Ilene Ray­mond Rush Go to Pa­­a­betes to learn how ex­perts think you can re­verse di­a­betes.

'S hould you be eat­ing that?” An­drea Braver­man, 57, who has Type 1 di­a­betes, has heard that com­ment—and many more. “Peo­ple say, ‘If you didn’t eat so much sugar, you wouldn’t have di­a­betes,’ or ‘Con­trol­ling your diet and ex­er­cise will cure your di­a­betes.’

“You get frus­trated, you get an­gry, you feel in­truded upon,” says the pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Thomas Jef­fer­son Univer­sity. “You feel judged.”

In fact, a 2016 sur­vey con­ducted by Wake­field Re­search re­ported that 76 per­cent of peo­ple with di­a­betes have felt judged by fam­ily mem­bers or friends for how they man­age their di­a­betes, while over half felt fre­quently judged. Fol­low these guide­lines to show your sup­port.

THINK BE­FORE YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH Di­a­betes Is More Com­pli­cated Than You Know

In gen­eral, peo­ple know a lot more about di­a­betes than they did 30 years ago, says John Zre­biec, di­rec­tor of be­hav­ioral health at Joslin Di­a­betes Cen­ter, so they feel more qual­i­fied to com­ment than ever be­fore. But read­ing an oc­ca­sional news story doesn't make you an ex­pert.

“Di­a­betes is very com­plex and very con­fus­ing,” he says. “Peo­ple can do ev­ery­thing right but still get blood sugar [re­sults] that make no sense. Peo­ple who don’t have di­a­betes think if you do ev­ery­thing ‘right,’ it should turn out right. But that isn’t al­ways true.”

Life­style fixes are only one part of a larger pic­ture, says Su­san Guz­man, co-founder of the Be­hav­ioral Di­a­betes In­sti­tute. Type 1 di­a­betes is an au­toim­mune dis­ease where peo­ple have lit­tle to no pan­cre­atic func­tion, and Type 2 “is based on a lot of fac­tors that aren’t in our con­trol—genes and the en­vi­ron­ment and even cli­mate change,” she says. In other words, your judg­men­tal com­ments may be way off the mark.

Your Words Can Hurt

“Peo­ple with di­a­betes can in­ter­nal­ize your neg­a­tive mes­sages,” says Guz­man. “They tell them­selves, ‘I gave my­self this dis­ease and I’m get­ting what I de­serve.’”

BE MORE SEN­SI­TIVE 101 Of­fer Con­struc­tive Help

“Peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate com­ments that let them know you’re in this to­gether,” says Kim­berly Ol­son, a nurse prac­ti­tioner at the Penn Rode­baugh Di­a­betes Cen­ter. “Say, ‘I know you’re the one man­ag­ing your di­a­betes, but how can I help you?’”

Guz­man’s or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fers an eti­quette guide for peo­ple who don’t have di­a­betes. Among the sug­ges­tions:

• Ask what you can do to be help­ful or sup­port­ive.

• Rec­og­nize that di­a­betes is hard work, day in and day out.

• Of­fer to join in some healthy change or be­hav­ior, like eat­ing more veg­eta­bles or walk­ing after lunch.

Know When to Back Off

In spite of your good in­ten­tions, your friend or fam­ily mem­ber may not be in the mood to ed­u­cate you on his or her dis­ease or ac­cept your help. Have you heard one of these re­sponses lately? “I’m so happy you’re con­cerned about my health, but I have it un­der con­trol,” or “I un­der­stand your cu­rios­ity, but that’s not help­ful. I’ve been man­ag­ing my di­a­betes for years.” If so, be re­spect­ful and don't per­sist.

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