9 Things to Do When Someone Is Diagnosed With Diabetes

A handy checklist of things you can do when someone has been newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Preliminary action to take for someone with type 2 diabetes

The person in your care has just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and you're not sure how to help her handle this chronic condition. Here are nine things you can do right now to make sure her treatment is on track.

1. Offer support.

People react to a diabetes diagnosis in different ways. Some take it in stride. Others struggle with the information. Denial, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, depression, and grief are all common responses. In time, the emotional roller-coaster will pass. For now, though, the person in your care needs your encouragement, empathy, patience, and understanding -- or just your ear so she can vent. It's important to listen without passing judgment or offering advice. Remember, too: While this is a serious problem, it's not insurmountable. You can assist by staying positive yourself and helping her learn to manage the condition.

2. Find the health professionals she needs.

With a diabetes diagnosis, she'll need to take a lot of responsibility for managing her own condition. But she doesn't have to go it alone. A variety of healthcare providers -- including doctors, nurses, diabetes educators, dietitians, social workers, and others -- can help. Working together as a team , these professionals provide ongoing care, education, and support to help her live a healthy life with diabetes. You can help her line them up so she doesn't feel overwhelmed by the task.

3. Sign her up for a class.

There's a lot to learn about diabetes and its treatment. Find a diabetes education class taught by a certified diabetes educator and sign up the person in your care to help her figure out how to manage the condition, organize a treatment plan, and learn new skills. Even better: Go along with her, if you can, and educate yourself about the disease as well. Medicare and most health insurance plans cover this service; check with her plan first to make sure.

4. Buy her a meter.

Talk with her main diabetes doctor, diabetes educator, or pharmacist to help you find the blood glucose meter that best fits her needs and budget. Medicare and most health insurers help pay for diabetes self-testing equipment and supplies, including meters, test strips, and lancets. Find out first what's covered under her plan. And make sure both of you get instruction on how to use a glucose meter from a health professional.

Lifestyle changes for someone with type 2 diabetes

5. Help her make dietary changes.

Both of you need to know how food affects her disease. She'll need to pay more attention to what she eats , when, and how much. Get a recommendation from her main diabetes health provider for a registered dietitian who can assist in planning meals. And if you're doing the cooking, be sure to go along to the appointment to learn how you can help make healthier meals.

6. Encourage her to get active.

Even modest amounts of movement can make a difference in managing this disease. So help her figure out ways to get up and get going . If you can, join her for a walk with the dog or for a round of golf (and if the two of you can manage without it, don't use a cart!).

7. Figure out ways to keep medication records.

It's common to have to take prescription drugs to help treat type 2 diabetes. She may also need to take pills to manage other problems common in people with diabetes, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Or she may take medicines for other, unrelated ailments. Helping her remember to take all her drugs as directed can require a little advance planning. A sheet taped to the fridge, a logbook, an automated pill dispenser, or a computer software program could do the trick.

8. Look for a support group.

Check to see if her local hospital or diabetes center offers a support group, and try to find one geared toward older adults. Her doctor or diab etes educator should be able to help with this. The Defeat Diabetes Foundation lists diabetes support groups in all 50 states. She could also find a virtual support group by searching using the keywords diabetes online support group.

Find out more about type 2 diabetes

9. Educate yourself.

It's not just the person in your care who needs to learn about this disease. If you want to be a valuable partner with her as she manages her condition, you'll need to get up to speed, too. Ask her to let you participate in visits with her primary diabetes care provider if you need more information or have questions about her diagnosis or treatment, or ask her to give her doctor permission to speak with you about it.

An authoritative guide to the disease can also be useful to read, although it won't be able to assess a particular situation. The American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes, Diabetes for Dummies by endocrinologist Alan Rubin, or The Joslin Guide to Diabetes by Richard S. Beaser of the internationally renowned Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, are a few good choices.

Online resources include the website of the American Diabetes Association , the nation's leading health organization for diabetes research, resources, and advocacy; the National Diabetes Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health ; and The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse , a service of the NIH. The more you learn, the more effective a partner you'll be.

Sarah Henry

Sarah Henry has covered health stories for most of her more than two decades as a writer, from her ten-year stint at the award-winning Center for Investigative Reporting to her staff writer position with Hippocrates magazine to her most recent Web work for online sites, including WebMD, Babycenter. See full bio