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9 diabetes etiquette tips for people who don't have diabetes

People living with diabetes often come across others who want to share their own views, or what they believe they've learned about how to manage the condition, and it doesn't always help. That's why we've created this list of diabetes tips for those who haven't been diagnosed.

The bottom line? Diabetes is hard work and managing it is different for every individual.

Enjoy these 9 tips to better support a friend or loved one living with diabetes.

1. Acknowledge that you don't know best.

You may know something, but it's likely to be less than the person living with diabetes and their extensive healthcare team. So don't offer unsolicited advice about foods or other aspects of diabetes. Nobody wants to hear suggestions about their personal life or health, and many common beliefs about diabetes—like they can't eat sugar—are outdated or just plain wrong.

2. Show understanding, not blame.

Recognize that managing diabetes is a full-time job that no one has applied for, wants or can quit. Whatever you imagine, a person living with diabetes did not cause the disease by making poor decisions. Diabetes is a complex condition with a big genetic component,1 and managing it involves constantly thinking about what, when and how much to eat, plus exercise, medication, stress, blood sugar measurements and more.

3. Keep the horror stories to yourself.

Don't tell a person living with diabetes about the terrible things that could happen—they already know. Diabetes is scary enough without hearing about something that happened to a distant relative decades ago. Today, we know that with good treatment, people can live long, healthy, happy lives with diabetes.

4. Join in the changes.

If someone is trying to make healthy lifestyle changes, join in. Learning to cook new foods or getting more physical activity is always better with a partner.

5. Don't spur self-consciousness.

Checking blood sugar or giving an injection isn't much fun, but it's necessary. Don't make them feel like they have to hide it. And, while you may be naturally curious, not everyone wants to treat every step in their self-care regime as a conversation starter.

6. Offer the support they want.

Ask how to help. If you're asked to help someone eat healthier, find out what that looks like to them.

7. Avoid thoughtless reassurance.

Sure, diabetes can be managed, but it's still a big deal. So don't try to make someone feel better by pointing out that it isn't cancer or something worse. Just listen without trying to fix things.

8. Respect blood sugar boundaries.

Blood sugar numbers are personal. Just like you wouldn't peer over someone's shoulder to peek at the scale or comment on their weight, stay out of their blood sugar numbers unless specifically invited. These numbers can evoke fear, frustration and disappointment without outside help.

9. Stick to what's going right.

Offer care and encouragement for the 24-7 job that's being performed. Sometimes it is helpful and motivating to know that somebody has noticed.

1Diabetes Canada. Type 2 diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetes.ca/en-CA/recently-diagnosed/type-2-toolkit. Accessed August 13, 2019.

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