Diabetes is often called a family disease because if affects more than just the diabetes patient. If impacts the immediate family and the relationships of close friends as well.
It can be a hard bit of news for anyone diagnosed with diabetes. In a single moment, the rest of your life is undeniably altered. You can no longer consume your normal, everyday foods without caring about the consequences, you constantly have to test your blood sugar level, you maybe have to even take prescription medicine, and, in the worse case scenario, you can end up losing limbs or doing major damage to body’s organs.
Yes, having diabetes is a life changing event for everyone. The patient, his family, friends, and other loved ones as well.
One of the first and most important changes required is a change in the patient’s diet. Suddenly there are whole categories of foods that are “off the table.” The patient has to learn a great deal and become familiar with procedures for planning healthy meals. He has to learn how to look at a fast food or restaurant menu and decide which foods are ok to order. And at home, if the family cook doesn’t want to continuously be responsible for cooking two sets of meals, entire menu plans may change – forcing the others in the family to adjust to the diabetic’s nutritional needs.
A different likely change that has a potential impact on the entire family is the further medical assistance that the patient with diabetes will require. Dependant on the severity of the illness, the family’s income state of affairs may be drastically impacted. The family may have to make budget induced changes such as buying cheaper foods, clothes, and other items. And if the diabetic is a child, he will probably need more attention than the other children, possibly leading to the other children feeling jealous because they are now receiving less attention.
Accepting diabetes is particularly hard for teenagers to handle. The teen years are already hard enough. And what teen wants to risk being an outcast from the rest of his peers? They want to be with their friends, eat what their friends eat, drink what their friends drink, and so on. And now they find out that they risk doing long term damage to their body and health, if they try to imitate their friend’s eating habits. For a teenager, this can very well lead to feelings of being isolated and different. And teens don’t like to be different from each other.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right attitude, the illness can in fact strengthen relationships. This is a chance to treat the disease as a learning experience for the family by helping the family to learn and practice better dietary habits. As the entire family begins to eat healthier meals, not only is the chance of other members developing diabetes decreased, their overall health is increased as well.
This can also be used as an opportunity to strengthen friendships and discover who your real friends are. Diabetes is nothing to be ashamed about and a teenager shouldn’t hide it from his or her friends. If a “friend” is willing to drop you because you are “afraid” to drink or eat the things that the in crowd is doing, then they are not truly your friend. Good friends are worth their weight in gold, and a good friend will understand and stick by you regardless of your illness.
It’s critical for anyone being treated for diabetes that they have the support of their family. Children and teens are a good deal more likely to be successful in maintaining healthy eating and exercise habits if the entire family and support group of friends is helping them.
The important thing is to realize that when diabetes is diagnosed, everyone has to have time to adjust to the new circumstances. And to realize that help is out there, if you need it.