How to Support Someone with Diabetes

The following is an excerpt from a fabulous article written by experts from related fields on the Diabetes Council website. I was asked to contribute regarding relationships and sex.

As a side note, not included in the excerpt below is that some medications used to treat diabetes can have side effects that involve erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia — Metformin in particular. Obviously staying connected with your partner through a chronic illness will not only help you maintain your relationship over all but can be healing emotionally as well as physically via increased circulation and improved mood via the release of important brain chemicals thanks to regular sex and orgasm.

“Like most chronic illness, sometimes it’s hard to gauge what our family members really need or want. Often times it becomes the elephant in the room. Some diabetes patients may take awhile in not only accepting their diagnosis but making the lifestyle changes that may be needed. Here are some tips to support your loved one through this process.

Get a dialogue going. Offer to help them in whatever way they will allow you. Whether it’s coordinating appointments or helping to do their grocery shopping.
Don’t steam roll them. Your loved one still needs to feel as empowered as they can about their life. Let them call the shots regarding what they need.
Offer to get active with them by encouraging walks and gentle work outs.
Ask them how much they want to talk about the diagnosis. Some patients get overwhelmed out of the gate while others want to actively set up a plan.
Realize that there may be a shift in lifestyle which can profoundly affect the patient and the family. Learning to take insulin or go through dialysis can be life altering. Talk to a caregiver support group about resources. Suggest to your family member that they attend a support group (in person or online) so that they won’t feel alone and can benefit from the experience of others.
Be on the look out for mood changes and depression. Encourage them to talk to their primary doctor to assess medications and give referrals for a therapist or social worker who specializes in chronic illness.
Diabetes and it’s treatment can cause problems with erections and orgasms. If you don’t feel prepared to discuss this with them, make sure his/her doctor does and leave plenty of written material around that addresses the issue.
Find the joy. Give them opportunities to live life. It shouldn’t be all about their disease and treatment. Don’t forget the fun.”