Helping Friends and Family With Diabetes

Key points

  • Your support can help a loved one manage their diabetes more effectively.
  • Ask how you can help, and listen to what they say.
  • Learn about diabetes and the steps needed to manage it every day.
fingers with smiley faces drawn on them

Why your support matters

One of the best ways to predict how well someone will manage their diabetes: how much support they get from family and friends.

Daily diabetes care is a lot to handle, from checking blood sugar to eating healthy food and being active. Your support can help make the difference between your loved one feeling overwhelmed or empowered.

Support tips

Learn about diabetes

Find out:

  • Why and when blood sugar should be checked
  • How to recognize and handle highs and lows (more below)
  • What lifestyle changes are needed
  • Where to go for information and help

Know diabetes is individual

Each person who has diabetes is different, and their treatment plan needs to fit their specific needs.

Ask and listen

Ask your friend or relative how you can help, and then listen to what they say. They may want reminders and assistance (or may not), and their needs can change over time.

Go to appointments

Go with your relative or friend to health care appointments if it's OK with them. You could learn more about how diabetes affects them and how you can be the most helpful.

Make time for self-care

Give them time in the daily schedule so they can manage diabetes—check blood sugar, make healthy food, take a walk.

Avoid blame

Many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, but being overweight is just one of several factors involved. And blood sugar levels can be hard to manage even with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Diabetes is complicated!

Step back

You may share the same toothpaste, but your family member may not want to share everything about managing diabetes with you. The same goes for a friend with diabetes.

Accept the ups and downs

Moods can change with blood sugar levels, from happy to sad to irritable. Ask your friend or relative to tell their health care team if they feel sad on most days—it could be depression.

Be encouraging

Tell them you know how hard they're trying. Remind them of their successes. Point out how proud you are of their progress.

Walk the talk

Follow the same healthy food and fitness plan as your loved one. It's good for your health, too. Lifestyle changes become habits more easily when you make them together.

Know the lows

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be serious and needs to be treated immediately. Symptoms vary, so be sure to know your friend's or relative's specific signs, which could include:

  • Shakiness, nervousness, or anxiety
  • Sweating, chills or clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Dizziness and difficulty concentrating
  • Hunger or nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Anger, stubborness, or sadness

When extra help is needed


If you have a child with diabetes, you'll probably be much more involved with their day-to-day care. Younger kids and those who just found out they have diabetes will need help with everyday management. Some older kids will be comfortable with doing their own self-care. Your child's health care team will give you detailed information about managing your child's diabetes.

Older adults

Diabetes is more common in older adults, and it can be harder for them to manage. Older people may not be as able to notice high or low blood sugar levels. It's especially important for you to know the signs and how it should be handled. They may have several diabetes complications such as vision problems, kidney disease, or nerve damage. Regular appointments with their health care team are really important to manage complications.