Diabetic Etiquette

Diabetes etiquette

For most of us, the thought of having to prick our fingers and give ourselves daily injections is downright scary.  For diabetes sufferers, it’s a simple fact of life.  Before you find yourself searching for what to say (or what not to say), consider these tips: 

Keep your advice about nutrition to yourself.  The diabetic knows what he or she can and cannot eat.  They’ve worked out the details with their trusted physician and know what they’re doing, thankyouverymuch.

Be supportive.  Don’t push diabetics to eat certain things or abandon the diet that works for them.  Understand that managing diabetes is a slippery slope and more than likely, they’ve “got this.”

Keep your scary stories to yourself.  Don’t share the story about Great Aunt Bertha who lost her foot to diabetes.  It’s not helpful.  Besides, managing stress is an integral part of managing diabetes so keep your horror stories to yourself.

Recognize that managing diabetes is a lot of hard work.  It’s a lot of effort to keep track of nutrition, insulin levels, medication, exercise, stress, and sleep.  Put yourself in their shoes.  It’s a full time job with a paycheck of not dying.

Control your own reactions. Do not be grossed out when your friend needs to test her blood sugars or give herself an injection.  It’s okay to say, “I’d like to learn more about this process if you’re willing to share” or “I’m incredibly needle-phobic so I’m going to look away but I’m still listening.”  It is not okay to run screaming from the room or say “HOW DO YOU DO THAT TO YOURSELF EVERY DAY?”  Remember the sandbox rules.  Be nice.

Ask how you can help.  Don’t assume things that may seem obvious.  Ask how you can support their efforts to stay healthy and balanced.

Don’t downplay the severity of diabetes.  While it could be worse (and let’s face it, it could ALWAYS be worse), don’t trivialize a very serious disease that has more than likely forced radical life changes upon your friend.

Don’t comment on any readings they may get in your presence.  Ask them what the numbers mean and refrain from “helpful” suggestions like “You probably shouldn’t have had dessert.”

The bottom line is simple.  Be diplomatic and polite.  Unsolicited advice can make anyone feel a bit prickly but is especially insensitive to someone who has undoubtedly spent years finding ways to manage diabetes that work them.

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