Diabetes Forecast

What’s the Best Form of Support?

I have a 58-year-old mom who has diabetes. I can’t get her to do as the doctor says. Please help me! Bonnie Richardson, Russellville, Tennessee

Susan Guzman, PhD, responds

Helping people with diabetes make changes to their management can be tricky. You have to find a balance between encouragement and support without coming across as critical or nagging.

What to Know

There are some strategies that can help you discuss your concerns with the person you care about who has diabetes.

  1. Start a conversation. Plan ahead to have a discussion with the person with diabetes. Choose a calm moment—not when either of you is upset.
  2. Acknowledge that diabetes is hard and requires a lot of difficult changes.
  3. Share your feelings. Let your loved one know that you are concerned and want to be helpful.
  4. Ask what you can do to help with diabetes management. Your idea of helpful may differ from your loved one’s. If possible, try to be specific about exactly what each of you is going to do—and not do.

It is very difficult to watch someone you care for struggle to follow through with disease management. Ultimately, you can serve as a source of help and encouragement but can only change your own behavior.

Find Out More

You may have your own tough feelings about diabetes. Many family members experience significant fear and worry about diabetes and what might happen down the road. People may feel anger and frustration because their loved ones are not taking the actions needed to manage their disease. These tough feelings can lead people to take on the unpleasant role of being the “diabetes police.” For tips about how to support the person you care about without policing their behavior, visit behavioraldiabetesinstitute.org/print-preview/BDIAdultEtiquetteCard.pdf.


Managing diabetes well is a big job that requires effort each and every day. Family and friends play a critical role in good diabetes care. Those with diabetes who have someone who is supporting their efforts do much better overall than those who try to do it alone.

Susan Guzman, PhD, is a clinical psychologist specializing in diabetes and cofounder of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute in San Diego.



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