Helping a Loved One With Diabetes When You Live Far Apart

Key points

  • Learn about diabetes to understand what your loved one is going through.
  • Talk with your family member about the kind of help they need.
  • Choose a main contact person and find community resources.
elderly man with a nurse

Offer your support

Managing diabetes is not easy, whether a person has just been diagnosed or has been living with diabetes for years. Family support can help a person with diabetes manage everyday tasks and deal with changes in care over time.

But if you live far away, you may worry about how you can help. Being prepared with the right information can help you provide support, even from a distance.

Learn about diabetes

Learning about diabetes can help you:

  • Understand what your family member is going through.
  • Find ways to help them prevent emergencies.
  • Help them manage their health care.
  • Talk to your loved one's doctor with more confidence.

Learn as much as you can about your loved one's diabetes medicines. Also learn about their supplies and equipment, including their blood sugar monitor and test strips.

Ask your loved one to teach you about how they are managing their diabetes and what kinds of support they need. Do they just need someone to check on them now and then? Do they need someone to take them to appointments or help make medical and financial decisions?

Remember—it's their health, so it's up to them how much they want to share with you. Let them know that you're there to support them if they need you.

Keep Reading: Living with Diabetes

Gather information and keep it in one place

Gather important information about your loved one's health care and keep it up to date. Put it in a place that is easy for your loved one or a caregiver to find. Keep copies for yourself. Here are the kinds of information you should collect.

Medical information

With your loved one's consent, have a family member or close friend get written permission to receive medical and financial information. This information would typically come from a doctor or hospital. Choose one person to talk with all health care providers, if possible. Write down the following medical information:

  • Names and phone numbers of your loved one's care team.
  • Names and doses of your loved one's medicines.
  • Names and phone numbers of emergency contacts.

Make sure your loved one or a caregiver knows how to contact you (or an emergency contact) in an emergency. But tell them to call 911 first.

Community resources

Create a list of resources in your loved one's community:

Social support: Check with your loved one's health care provider for support groups and social services.

Financial support: Look for community discount programs for medicines, blood sugar monitors, diabetes education, nutrition assessment, and counseling.

Practical support: Ask your loved one's health care provider or diabetes educator for help getting supplies and learning to use equipment. Caregivers can also learn to use equipment.

Plan your visits

When you visit your loved one, you may worry that you don't have enough time to do everything you want to. Talk with your loved one ahead of time about the kind of help they may need. You may feel less stressed if you can focus on a few important errands or chores during your visit.

Research your company's leave policies. Some companies allow sick leave to care for a relative.

Remember that your loved one may need help with everyday tasks. These may include home cleaning and repairs, shopping, and other chores not directly related to their health.

Check with your loved one or a caregiver to learn what medical care they may need. This information will help you set clear, realistic goals for your visit. For example:

  • Do they need to go to a specialist, such as a foot doctor or eye doctor?
  • Do they need more testing supplies?

Try to make time to do things that are fun and relaxing with your loved one. Suggest taking a walk together. Offer to play a game of cards or a board game.

Stay in touch

From time to time, ask your loved one how they are coping with their diabetes and how you can help. With your loved one's permission, try to find other people who can visit and provide support if needed.

Check in regularly with the people who are providing care to your loved one. Find out how they are coping and how you can help them.


Find diabetes self-management education and support services by location.

Diabetes Care During Emergencies: Resources for people with diabetes who are affected by natural disasters, emergencies, and hazards.

5 Questions to Ask Your Health Care Team