Diabetes can have a big influence on the family of somebody with the condition, but help and advice is available to family members.

Some people with diabetes will be very confident about managing their diabetes and may not need additional help, whereas others may appreciate some support.

Helping someone with diabetes

Learning to live with diabetes can be difficult, and there are a number of practical ways you can help and support a family member who has diabetes, including:

  • Understanding and educating yourself on diabetes
  • Offering emotional support
  • Providing an environment that’s conducive to healthy eating
  • Taking exercise together

Diabetes education and awareness

It helps to have a basic understanding of the type of diabetes a family member has.

Education is key to helping people with diabetes, and you can use this knowledge to make their lives a little easier, especially if you can recognise signs of problems.

This will also help you to relate to the different parts of diabetes management they may be dealing with.

High and low blood sugar levels

Learning about high and low blood sugars is a good starting point, with people on insulin at risk of highs and lows, although not everyone with diabetes is at high risk of dangerously high or low blood sugar levels.

While some people with diabetes will know to how treat high and low blood sugars, others will need help, with children and older people likely to be at higher risk of needing help.

Reading up on hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia can help you understand physical and emotional symptoms and spot when they are occurring.

If your relative seems unusually irritable, sweaty or incoherent, this could be down to a change in their blood sugar.

If a family member is at risk of hypos, it can be very helpful to keep a supply of sugar or sweets nearby in case a low blood sugar should occur.

Emotional support

Learning to live with diabetes can at times be difficult, which is why being sympathetic is crucial, especially for somebody only recently diagnosed or going through a tough patch.

People with diabetes can commonly be affected by emotions such as stress, anxiety and depression, so appreciating that bad days come with good days, offering a shoulder to cry on or an eager ear to talk through problems can all provide valuable emotional support.

Lifestyle changes

Among the lifestyle changes necessary for people with diabetes include diet and exercise, which are fundamental parts of diabetes management.

Help at meal times

It can be hard for people with diabetes to avoid having sweet or high calorie foods if everyone else in the family is having them.

Minimise this temptation by providing healthier desserts, such as fruit, and avoiding having high calorie meals or snacks. This will help someone with diabetes keep better control of their blood sugar levels.

Some may choose to vigilantly control their diet themselves, so be sure to consult with your family member as to how they would prefer their diet to be managed.

In many cases, a diagnosis of diabetes in the family has sparked a move for the whole family to eat more healthily. See our diet guides for diabetes.

Take exercise together

Exercise is generally helpful for all people with diabetes and relatives can help make exercise fun by joining in.

Playing a sport, or doing something you all enjoy, such as swimming or running, can turn exercise from a chore into something enjoyable.

Exercise and sport can lower blood sugar levels, however. If your family member is at risk of hypoglycemia then this should be taken into account.

Diabetes can run in families

The most common types of diabetes tend to run in families. People with diabetic family members face a higher risk of developing diabetes.

The increase in risk varies depending on how close a family member they are and what type of diabetes is involved.

If a family member has been diagnosed with diabetes and the family are concerned about it developing within someone else,  it is worth being aware of the symptoms.