For Parents: Tried-and-True Diabetes Care Tips
Tried and True Tips
Draw on the experience of parents and experts.
There is no perfect. Placing too much emphasis on a blood glucose reading can leave kids feeling as if the number determines their worth. "You're not going to have perfect blood sugar," says Barbara Maslaney, RN, BSN, CDE, a diabetes educator at Seattle Children's Hospital. "Your blood sugar is just a number. It doesn't make you good or bad."
Be honest with your feelings. "It's really important for kids to feel like their parents are being strong, but it's also good for adolescents to see their parents struggling to cope because they can see, 'Oh, it's OK to feel like this right now,' " says Jaclyn Gee, MS, CCLS, a child life specialist at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. "It's OK to be angry." And to work together to cope.
Alert day care or school. After Andi Smith's son was diagnosed, she wasn't able to drop him off at day care until the staff was trained to use glucagon for low blood glucose emergencies—a process that took a week. Be sure to speak with your day care as soon as your child is diagnosed to make sure that he or she has care and adequate supplies and that the staff will be trained to provide diabetes care.
Invest in a calorie-counting book. The parents interviewed for this article all recommend the book The CalorieKing Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter, which lists carb counts for common foods as well as restaurant foods. The American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Carbohydrate & Fat Gram Guide is also a helpful tool for learning the nutrition information of foods. Another option: Download a carb-counting app for your phone, such as CalorieKing.
Read your insurance plan. When a child has a chronic illness, understanding your insurance coverage becomes part of your job. Make sure you know what medications, devices, and supplies such as test strips are covered as well as any brands that are preferred. Your provider can direct you toward affordable options and assistance programs if you have no insurance.
Prepare for emergencies. Wendy Rose types her daughter's symptoms of low blood glucose and her phone number on a bright note card, which she staples to a plastic bag containing a juice box, for any caretakers. It beats explaining the details and having the caretaker forget, she says.
Buy a baby monitor. Red Maxwell's daughter Cassie would cry in the middle of the night when her blood glucose fell. The monitor alerted Maxwell and his wife immediately. They used the monitor until his daughter was 12. Or go high tech: The new Medtronic Sentry system, which can sit on your nightstand, wirelessly displays readings from a continuous glucose monitor that the child wears.
Give your child a time limit. Because her toddler is at an age when he doesn't want to take time out of play for blood glucose tests or insulin injections, Andi Smith sets a timer. Her son knows that when he hears the ding, it's time for diabetes care—no arguing.
Use a medical ID. If your child won't wear a medical ID (or if the ID jewelry keeps getting lost), try this trick from Rose: Buy temporary tattoos (they're available online) that say "I have type 1 diabetes" and apply a new tattoo on the child's left wrist every few days.
Watch for growth spurts. Insulin needs will change as kids grow. Growth hormones and menstruation can raise their blood glucose levels. Discuss with your health care provider how to handle these changes.
Manage in the heat. Warm weather and hot water, such as in a hot tub, can speed insulin uptake and raise the risk of hypoglycemia. Hydration and extra blood glucose monitoring are important.
Find the right sitter. Because they were worried about leaving their daughter in the hands of someone unfamiliar with diabetes, Maxwell and his wife found students with diabetes at the local college who were willing to babysit.