This year the World Diabetes Organisation billed the theme for World Diabetes Day as “The family and diabetes”.

This theme is so apt, as a person who is diagnosed with diabetes is not the only one who is managing the illness, but the family related to this illness is also affected. Being diagnosed with diabetes can be scary and sometimes even overwhelming. Third world countries are most affected as education regarding this illness is limited, medical resources are lacking and that causes people to live without being diagnosed.

Diabetes appears as different types that vary from age, family, medical history and environmental factors. We so often read about healthy lifestyles, lifestyle changes, diet and exercise which all assists in reducing the risks of this condition. I have lived and grown to see the effects of diabetes with close family members. Yes, significant lifestyle changes need to be implemented in order to circumvent other complications.

Years ago, I shared a special friendship with a colleague whose young daughter was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. My colleague was not dependant on working to earn a living as she was comfortable in her lifestyle. However, she did mention that she chose to work in order to keep her mind occupied and give her a different sense of purpose – not only that of a mum caring for her diabetic daughter. I listened as to how some nights would be long and go without sleep as her daughter would experience extreme highs and lows in sugar levels. As a mum, she was concerned about the effects this had on her daughter, the sporting activities that she participated in and her general day-to-day activities that we often take for granted. All of this was difficult to manage not only for the young girl living with the illness but also for her the rest of the family. Living with diabetes affects family life.

Younger diabetics find healthy food choices tricky and friends are sometimes not mature enough to offer support. The ordinary pressures of growing up are intense enough, what to speak of managing an illness through continuous glucose monitoring. The family offers a steady and strong support structure for those managing diabetes – young or old. It is not easy to live a life of numbers, checking levels and then adjusting insulin intake accordingly.

Therefore, proper education is necessary and families need not feel shy or embarrassed to seek support. Caregivers also need support from professional and sometimes even counselling as they walk the path of living with diabetes. This eventually turns into a team effort and with the proper support and love, diabetes can become a manageable illness. It may sound absurd, but care and support for the caregiver is absolutely essentially – especially during the initial stages of diagnosis.

These are all serious issues, but at the same token, do not show pity and sympathy for the patient – rather change those negative emotions to empowerment, compassion and care. Do not let this illness stop you from living – as difficult as it maybe – take it as something positive, as you are now taking greater care (for management or prevention of diabetes) of your health and becoming more aware of exercise routines, annual medical checks and healthy eating. Be empowered through education and positivity. People all over the world are embracing this illness – be strong and do not be overpowered and overwhelmed – rather use education as the key to a healthier lifestyle.