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.
Being diagnosed with diabetes can be a difficult thing to handle. In one fell swoop, it affects you for possibly the rest of your life. You can no longer eat your normal foods with abandon, you constantly have to test your blood sugar level, you possibly have to take medicine, and, in the worse cases, you can end up losing limbs or doing major damage to body organs.
So having diabetes is no picnic. But it’s difficult for the 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.
Another potential change that affects the entire family is the additional medical attention that the person with diabetes will need. Depending on the severity of the illness, the family’s income situation may be impacted drastically. The family as a whole may be forced to buy 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.
Living with diabetes is especially difficult for teens to handle. The teen years are already difficult enough. And what teenager wants to stand out as being different from the rest? They want to be with their friends, eat what their friends eat, drink what their friends drink, and so on. And now they discover that they risk doing damage to their body and health, if they try to emulate their friend’s eating habits. For a teenager, this can very easily 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.