April 8, 2022

My Family Member Has Diabetes

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My family member has diabetes. How do I support them? Will I get it too? 

“My dad has diabetes.” “My mom has diabetes.” “My brother has diabetes.” It is common for us to hear these sentences from clients. Often learning of a diagnosis of a family member can prompt us to not only want to help care for that person, but also to take a closer look at our own health. 

If you clicked on this because your mom, dad or other close family member was just diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, you’re in the right place. We are going to go over 5 things you can do to help support your family member today, as well as what a familial diabetes diagnosis might mean for you. 

Table of Contents

5 Ways to Support a Family Member Just Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes:

  1. Listen to them

    It’s common for people to feel overwhelmed, scared, shameful, hopeless, and confused. Particularly in the beginning, it can be really helpful for the person to have a safe space to vent a little and talk through their emotions. If a higher level of support is needed, a therapist or seeking out diabetes support groups can be really helpful. 

  2. Seek education

    Maybe this is on your own terms, or maybe it is something you can do with your mom, dad, brother, sister, or others in your family. Talking with your doctor is a great starting point. They may be able to provide resources and connect you with a dietitian and/or certified diabetic educator. The American Diabetes Association has educational materials online, as well as resources to get connected to diabetes education programs near you.

  3. Cook together

    When someone receives a diagnosis of diabetes, it is not uncommon for that person to develop a bit of fear and anxiety around food. They can suddenly feel like food is an enemy, when the reality is that food is an essential part of managing diabetes. Bringing joy into the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes and new ingredients can help patients and their families build confidence around food. 

  4. Walk together

    Walking or doing any sort of exercise becomes exponentially more fun for most of us when we have someone to join us! Try getting the family out the door after dinner for a short walk (even 5-10 minutes helps!). Research shows a 10 minute walk after each main meal is more effective for lowering blood sugar in people with Type 2 Diabetes than walking 30 minutes in a single occasion [1]. 

  5. Offer to go to doctor’s appointments with them

    Doctor’s appointments can suddenly become more anxiety-provoking after receiving a diagnosis like Type 2 Diabetes. Simply offering to drive someone to an appointment can be a wonderful way to support them. If they’re open to it, you may offer to go into the appointment with them, help them take notes and go through important questions to ask. Having a partner there can help to reduce the anxiety level a bit and make sure the patient is getting the most out of doctor’s visits.


Providing Support vs Nagging

There can be a fine line between providing support and nagging. We want our loved ones to take care of themselves because we love them and we want them to be as healthy and happy as they can. 

If you find yourself veering into nagging territory, try to take a step back and recalibrate. Most of us don’t want to feel like we are being treated like a child, or like someone is watching your every move. This can backfire and create resentment, which is not going to help support health goals for anyone. 

Keeping the line of communication open will help you best support your mom, dad, brother, sister, or other family member who has been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. 


If My Mom or Dad Has Diabetes, Will I Get Diabetes Too?

Like many health conditions, having a family history of diabetes does increase your personal risk for diabetes [2]. This does not mean you are doomed, but it is something to be aware of. 

We can’t control family history, but we have a bit more control over choices related to nutrition, physical activity and stress management. Doing what you can to take care of your body is a gift to your present self and your future self. 

When a family member is diagnosed with diabetes, it can be scary but it can also be empowering. If we respond by taking action, being open to learning and finding out how to best support our loved ones, everyone reaps the benefits. 

You may just find that a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis in your family actually helps you yourself become more conscious of your health and work on finding routines that you feel good about. 


Getting Support After a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis

If you or a loved one is struggling to navigate their new world after receiving a diabetes diagnosis, we strongly recommend reaching out for support. Talk with your doctor, dietitian, and/or therapist. You don’t have to go it alone!

We provide individualized 1:1 nutrition counseling, as well as a 3-month group program that touches on many aspects related to blood sugar management. 

infographic showing 5 ways to support family member just diagnosed with diabetes

Featured Image: Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

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About the Author: Kelly LaVoie, MS, RD, LDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian (RD) based in Chicago, IL. I have worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including dialysis, ICU, as well as one-on-one nutrition counseling and groups.