If we are going to give our daughter and son-in-law that much-needed break then we need to master the skill of monitoring blood glucose levels of our grandson. This means mastering the dreaded finger poke. As shocking as it sounds, it doesn’t take long before it becomes a normal part of everyday life. It is sad to see our grandson’s little fingers looking like little pin cushions but it can’t be helped.
When dealing with a young child with Type 1 Diabetes it is our job as his caregivers to become his pancreas. Sounds worse than it is.
It is our goal to assist other grandparents who are also going through this. We can offer the little tips we have found that make this easier for us. We are gaining more and more confidence every time our grandson is here.
When to Test Blood Glucose Levels
Each case is different so my first piece of advice is to listen to the health care provider. We are only relating our experience and any advice we offer is not intended to replace health care providers’ advice. In the case of our grandson here in Canada, he is fortunate to have a whole team dedicated to his diabetes management. His doctor is on speed-dial and our daughter has a direct link to text the doctor with any questions or concerns.
Typically, our grandson requires a finger poke before each meal. We also check his blood glucose if he seems to be too low or too high. the scary part for us is that he does not yet recognize how he feels when he is too “high” or too “low”. We are hoping that will come in time. Also, he requires finger pokes at night while he is sleeping because he tends to go too low at night.
Again every case is different and your health care provider will tell you how often they want the blood glucose tested, because like I said earlier every case is different.
How to Test Blood Glucose Levels
With a young active child, this can be tricky and our grandson doesn’t like it much. I wouldn’t either, after all, who wants to be poked all day and nighttime too.
We have found that telling our grandson we need to do a finger poke and ask him which finger he wants it on works well. This gives him some sense of control.
So in our case and with the supplies, we have here been the steps we follow to test blood glucose:
- Insert test strip into the tester, this turns the machine on.
- Use an alcohol swab to clean fingers at the site of the test.
- Prime finger poker and prick finger
- Wipe away an initial drop of blood, this may be altered by the alcohol so need a fresh drop.
- Squeeze out a drop of blood and place it on the test strip.
- The machine will tell you the numbers.
We have found that our grandson has adjusted quite well in the past few months, He now does part of the procedure himself which is awesome. He does his finger poke but an adult places the drop of blood on the test strip and reads the results.
With so many finger pokes every day the fingers tend to become calloused and don’t bleed as easily as they did at first. It is very helpful to keep the hand below heart level and massage or squeeze the blood down from higher up the arm towards the hand and finger.
A New Way for Us to Monitor Glucose Levels
All the finger pokes wreaked havoc with our grandson’s little fingers. His doctors decided it was in his best interest to have a continuous glucose monitor. This means he has a little disc on his arm that a scanner can read his glucose levels. The site needs to be changed every few days but it sure cuts down on the number of finger pokes in the course of a day.
Keep in mind that the reading from the scanner has a fifteen-minute delay. When reading it gives the number and also an arrow of whether he is going up, down, or maintaining that level. It makes life a lot easier since having that.
In spite of Alex wearing a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), finger pokes are done before every meal because we want to know where his numbers are right now, not fifteen minutes ago. Yes, blood glucose levels can change that fast. We also do a finger poke if the scanner reads him quite low we want to do a current number so a finger poke is in order. Then we know what to do for him based on the accurate current reading.
What If Blood Glucose is Too High
It is important to closely monitor blood glucose because having high blood glucose (hyperglycemia) for long periods can cause serious health problems. It can damage the blood vessels that supply blood to vital organs. This can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision, and nerve problems.
The symptoms of high blood sugar are:
- increased thirst
- increased urination
- diabetic keto-acidosis
These symptoms can usually be avoided by regular monitoring of blood glucose, maintaining regular exercise, taking medications regularly according to your healthcare provider.
Of course even with diligent care sometimes things go wrong. If the diabetic has any of these symptoms or their key tones are not normal, go to the emergency room right away.
- They’ve been throwing up for more than 2 hours.
- They feel queasy or your belly hurts.
- Their breath smells fruity.
- They’re tired, confused, or woozy.
- They’re having a hard time breathing.
Easily check for key tones by testing the urine with strips. By following what your health team has told you to do you can avoid many hospital visits.
What If Blood Glucose is Too Low
Despite everyone’s best efforts, there will be times when blood glucose goes low(hypoglycemia). In the case of our grandson, he is usually high during the day but goes low at night. Almost every night they have to wake him for a little snack or drink of apple juice to raise his glucose levels because he goes too low. It affects their sleep every night.
Symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- feeling tired
- increased hunger
- blurry vision
A “low blood sugar”, or hypoglycemia, is a blood sugar level lower than 4.0 mmol/L; however, some people experience mild symptoms of hypoglycemia at blood sugar levels slightly higher than this.
Important things to consider about hypoglycemic events:
- They can happen quickly.
- They can occur day or night.
- Symptoms vary, but each child usually exhibits one or two tell-tale signs you will learn to recognize.
- Hypoglycemia can be difficult to detect in infants or very young children; good indicators are crying, irritability, pale skin, along with a “floppiness” of the head.
By consistently monitoring blood glucose levels we can usually catch a low before it is too dangerous and give him a small bit of apple juice or 5 Skittles which usually works quite quickly for him.
In our experience giving Alex some sense of control (choosing which finger to poke) when monitoring blood glucose levels the whole process goes so much smoother. We find that when our grandson wants to do the finger poke himself it goes much smoother if we let him. When it comes right down to it, ultimately he will have to manage his own diabetes so allowing him to feel independent will only help him long term.
The continuous glucose monitor is truly incredible in that there are so many fewer finger pokes in the course of the day. Our grandson can even scan himself and now that he is in school he can read the numbers. He understands that when he in the “grey” he is in the safe zone.
Monitoring blood glucose is no longer scary for anyone in our family, it has become routine and does not take long to do. It is our sincere hope that this article can help ease your mind in some way and let you know you are not alone. Grand-parents can easily become proficient at monitoring blood glucose levels in their type 1 diabetic grandchild.
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