5. Demand quality from your health-care team
Your physicians and diabetes educators are essentially paid consultants to you and your family. You are ultimately the decision maker when it comes to your child’s daily diabetes care, but every good decision maker relies on the expertise of others to do the best job possible. Your child’s health-care providers should have the knowledge and time to accommodate your needs and interests. For example, they should be comfortable and experienced at using the latest technologies — or at least be willing to learn. They should be accessible when you need them.
If your child’s current health-care providers are falling short in these areas, it may be time to seek consultation elsewhere. But before giving up on your current team, make sure you’re doing your part. You must communicate with them, cooperate with them, provide them with necessary information, and keep yourself informed so that you can ask the right kind of questions.
4. Network your kids
Even if most kids don’t want to participate in a formal support group, meeting and spending time with other kids who have diabetes can have potent effects. When your kids see other kids using devices like pumps and continuous glucose monitors, they’ll develop an interest in them, too. When they see other kids checking their blood glucose level before a soccer game, they’ll be more likely to do it themselves without having to be told. When they see other kids giving their own shots or changing their own infusion sets, they’ll become more comfortable at taking that next step. And psychologically, there is nothing like being around other kids with similar challenges, doing things together, to feel more comfortable in real life.
There is also the opportunity for your child to set an example and teach or show other kids what he has learned and accomplished. This process, called modeling, helps to reinforce the value of appropriate behaviors and provides a sense of pride. So check into diabetes camp for your child. Bring him to local diabetes fund-raisers and educational programs. Check out the Children With Diabetes conferences and online resources at www.childrenwithdiabetes.com.
3. If it’s broke, fix it
Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Of course, that may seem like the norm when it comes to blood glucose levels! How many times has your child had the same meal, taken the same insulin, and done the same things and had radically different blood glucose results?
Patterns, however, are a different story. If you detect a pattern of out-of-range blood glucose levels, don’t keep doing the same thing. Look for a potential cause, and try doing things a bit differently. Are adjustments needed to accommodate for physical activity? Are carbohydrates being under- or overcounted? Is insulin being given at the right times and into skin that is absorbing it properly?
Insulin requirements can change rapidly in growing kids, so don’t hesitate to adjust doses to meet your child’s changing needs. Don’t forget that the first step in fixing a problem is detecting it, so make sure you’re keeping and analyzing records on a regular basis (see item 7), staying on top of your child’s control (item 10), and utilizing your health-care team for expert advice (item 5).
2. Involve your child
Many kids feel helpless when it comes to their diabetes. They didn’t ask to get it, and they certainly don’t like being told to check, count, calculate, bolus, record, etc., on a daily basis. Whenever possible, involve your child in the goal-setting and decision-making processes. With a young child, it might be as simple as having him choose which finger to prick, or what color pen to use when writing down blood glucose levels. With older kids, it could involve having them set A1C or blood glucose targets, or letting them decide how much carbohydrate to have at their meals and snacks. Restoring some sense of control over their own lives is important for establishing “ownership” of their diabetes and avoiding burnout and depression.