Once diagnosed, it is important to understand when to begin Teaching Kids Diabetes Management because Type 1 Diabetes is a disease that will be with them for life. That means there are no breaks from it and no cure. For the rest of your life, you will be having to monitor and make adjustments for blood glucose (sugar) levels in order to properly function in your daily activities.
Remaining too high for too long significantly increases the risk of Diabetes-related complications.
Going too low and you risk going unconscious and perhaps even death if left untreated.
The safest thing is to monitor frequently and follow your treatment plan as set out by your doctor and nutritionist.
Initially at diagnosis parents will be mainly responsible for all the daily Diabetes management but as the child grows and becomes more familiar with the everyday steps they may choose to take on some responsibility themselves.
Recognizing Highs and Lows
Soon after diagnosis, it is important to start asking the child to describe how they feel when they have tested low or high. You are trying to teach them to recognize how their body may feel differently for each of these circumstances.
If blood sugars are too high, symptoms may include:
- increased thirst
- increased urination
If blood sugars are too low, symptoms may include:
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
The scary thing with lows is that they can happen quickly and they can happen at night. Frequent monitoring is essential to catching a low before it gets too dangerous.
Monitoring Blood Glucose
At first monitoring blood glucose will seem quite daunting. It won’t take long before it is almost second nature. It just becomes a normal part of every day and you don’t even think about it anymore.
We find it really helpful to give the child some sense of control by choosing which finger to poke.
As they get more used to the procedure, they may show an interest in wanting to do it themselves.
With our grandson we started slowly (he is only 5), he would choose which finger, then wipe the selected finger with an alcohol swab then prime the lancet and we would poke the finger.
Now he pokes the finger himself but we squeeze the drop of blood onto the test strip. He is beginning to show an interest in doing that now too so it won’t be long before he does the entire procedure.
As the child grows and matures they will slowly begin to assume more and more of their own Diabetes management.
Once they are doing most of it themselves there will be days they just don’t want to. That is fine and is why there are always adult caregivers ready to take over.
Don’t rush them into taking over, they have a lifetime to deal with this, just let them be kids. They will learn and become masterful at it in their own time.
Calculating carbs is a little trickier because their dose of insulin is directly related to the number of carbs consumed so the child will need to be a little older (they will need some math skills) to start doing this.
However, our grandson is already becoming aware of what foods contain carbs and even asks to make “coconut flour pancakes” because they are lower carb. This is especially true if he knows there is a piece of cake or cookie he wants to have later in the day.
He has already figured out if he eats lower carb something then he has room for a higher carb something else. Pretty smart kid if you ask me.
Administering insulin can be learned in stages.
However, they can administer the needle to themselves under supervision once they are comfortable and show an interest in doing so.
Again it begins in steps.
Choosing the injection site, prepping the site, then administering the injection.
Celebrate each step towards independently monitoring and managing their own Diabetes.
Proper Disposal of Sharps
A significant part of Diabetes management is to know how to properly dispose of used needles. Whether they use traditional insulin needles or pen needles it is important to teach them how to dispose of used sharps properly and safely.
In Canada, the drugstore that fills your prescription for insulin will supply you with a sharps’ container for at home and a smaller more portable one for when on the road.
Once filled the Sharps containers can be taken back to the drugstore and the pharmacy will empty them for you.
Being responsible with your used sharps’ is a key component to becoming independent.
Some Basic Guidelines
At age 4 -5 children can wear medical ID bracelet or necklace, choose the finger for blood checks, turn on glucose meter/insert the test strip, know which adults are there to help, may start to recognize when they feel low or high, require supervision to ensure meals and snacks are eaten.
At age, 6 – 7 children can prick the finger for a blood check, start learning about the carbohydrate content of food, may recognize low blood sugar, may begin to help with injections, may give pump bolus with supervision, still need supervision to ensure meals and snacks are eaten.
Age 8 – 12 children can check blood sugar with supervision, recognize and treat low blood sugar, more involved with injections and pump boluses, make food choices according to plan.
By age, 13 – 18 kids can take part in annual diabetes meetings, plan meals and snacks and eat them on time, recognize and treat low blood sugar, ensure emergency kit is on hand, usually able to give injections or pump boluses, but still need some supervision and review.
Naturally, these are only guidelines and kids advance at different rates. Allow them to remain kids for as long as necessary
When to teach children to manage their own Diabetes is an individual decision and has a lot to do with:
- how old the child is
- what they are capable of doing
- how independent they are
- length of time since diagnosis
- do they show an interest in taking over some aspects
Ultimately it is between the parents and the child to decide who does what, with the full understanding that there will be days that the child just doesn’t want to do it. That is okay, the adults will take over until they desire to take control again.
I hope this helps you to understand the natural progression of teaching kids to manage their own Type 1 Diabetes.
Thanks for stopping by, leave your comments or questions below and I will respond.