November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a disease that hinders the body’s ability to make (Type 1) or manage (Type 2) insulin properly. It affects approximately 34 million individuals in America alone—over 10% of the population—according to the CDC, and another 88 million have prediabetes. This year, National Diabetes month is dedicated to youth who have the disease, since, as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says, diabetes is “one of the most common chronic conditions in school-age youth in America, affecting about 193,000 youth under 20 years old.” And while these shocking statistics are important to know, it is of more immediate importance to know how to help someone who has diabetes.
While diabetes is manageable, it can often be overwhelming, especially for young people, or someone who is newly diagnosed. This disease necessitates some form of lifestyle change—especially in how you eat. An individual with diabetes might also need to take medications or insulin, exercise more regularly, learn how to check and balance their insulin levels, and go to a number of doctor’s appointments. It can be difficult—even scary—to go through that on their own, particularly for school-age children.
There are a number of ways you can help a friend or family member who has diabetes. The first step you can take is to educate yourself on the disease and how to manage it. Doing online research is great, but you might also want to go to appointments or support groups with your friend or family member. This will give you the chance to hear the information the doctor tells them or even get a pamphlet that might have helpful knowledge and tips. Being there helps keep the patient at ease so they have someone with them if they find it stressful or intimidating. They might also find it helpful for you to take some notes for them so they can remember everything they were told later.
If the affected person needs to take medications at a certain time or check their insulin levels, you can help remind them to do so. Be careful not to seem like you’re nagging or they might become frustrated with your reminders. Be kind, and just do your best to help them remember the steps they need to take daily.
Since diet and exercise has a big part in managing diabetes, you could offer to be an exercise buddy or help find diabetic-friendly recipes. This would be especially important if you live in the same house as the person with diabetes. Since they’re going to have to eat a certain way, it’s kind and helpful for you to try and eat the same diet they do. As a bonus, you’ll get healthier by doing this, too!
National Diabetes Month is all about bringing more awareness to a disease that a high percentage of people in America deal with. During this month, take some time to educate yourself about it and gain more awareness to see if you can be of any help to someone who struggles with it!