Beyond reminding my daughter to keep her supplies stocked and with her, a few extra doctor appointments, and middle of the night checks, I have not made any major life changes. I have spent some time reading everything that I can about diabetes and becoming and educated consumer of the healthcare system (and the insurance system).
Gaining a different mindset
The changes are really pretty systemic in the sense that you really just have to change your entire mind set about what you’re paying attention to. We are particularly strict with Billy about what he eats. We found that his blood sugar control is much better when he eats food that is nutritious and whole grain food. We try to avoid all fried food. We try to avoid white flour products, if possible and obviously high glycemic items. We’re not incredibly strict about it. High glycemic items that spike the blood sugars right away and become really nearly impossible to control, so unless you’ve had the foresight to give yourself a shot or if you’re on pump therapy, a bolus, 20 to 30 minutes ahead, which with a child is not easy to do. So our mindset has really become entirely different as we now have to be consciously aware of what’s going on with Billy. What exercise has he had, where is he, who he’s with, and what he’s eating.
Training friends on diabetes management
We have another couple that we are close with who often watch our children for us. We have made sure that they understand the “rules” (about blood sugar monitoring and covering carbohydrates), explained what to look for in case of hypoglycemia, and trained them in the use of glucagon.
Because he’s at the age where he can check himself and he’ll want something to eat, and I think he thinks I’m saying it as punishment. “Okay Brady. That’s fine. You can have something to eat, but check yourself first.” “Fine, I won’t have something to eat,” he’ll say, and I’m like, “Okay, fine. You’re the one who’s hungry, not me.” So, it’s trying to get him into the habit of knowing that he needs to check his blood sugar, and he has to be aware of what’s going in and giving himself his insulin. He can have whatever he wants, but he needs to know how many carbs are in it so he can give himself his insulin.
He doesn’t do anything himself. I do it all, but he loves the pump. He’s a nine year old with ADHD, so he doesn’t take the greatest care of things. So I’ve had to threaten him a few times. Like, if he’s not going to take care of his pump, I’m going to take away it away and he can do shots again. He doesn’t like that.
We came to a new point this year where he wanted to go over to his friend’s house to play. I always had his friends come over to our house, and he was like, “You know, I want to go over to my friend’s house. Why can’t I go?” And I was like, “All right. You’re right. You should be able to go.” I said, “But let me be very clear about what the expectation is. When you get off the bus, you are going to check your blood sugar. You are going to call me, and we will talk about it.” I said, “If you don’t call me, it’s all about trust. If I can’t trust that you will be responsible for yourself, then you can’t go.” So, we’re at a point now where it’s become a trust issue. It’s definitely him trying to own it more and more.
Educating your children
You’ve got to educate your kids on why we’re making these changes. And we had kind of a sneaky way of doing this. We got a great DVD done by a chemist who talks about the way foods are and the glycemic index and how it affects blood sugars. It was really a great DVD, but my kids would never sit down to watch that DVD with myself and my wife. So what we did was when the kids were engaged in doing their homework my wife and I just put the DVD on and started watching it ourselves. And of course the next thing you know is they’re watching it with us because they’d rather do that than do their homework. So that all of a sudden that got us involved in educating out kids without force feeding them–no pun intended–about nutrition and about how food works. It wasn’t that we were telling them this; they were learning it for themselves.