Leading online provider of children’s health information, AboutKidsHealth, looks into diabetes management, and whether approaching management as a family can aid in adjusting to the strain of a chronic illness.
When her daughter was only three years old, Jeanne McKane knew something was not right. “She was thirsty all the time,” she says of her daughter, Olivia, now seven years old. “She would ask for a drink, down it, and then ask for another one, and down it. She was peeing about every 15 minutes, wetting the bed at night, and losing weight – she was just generally unhappy.”
After a quick urine test, Jeanne’s family doctor confirmed what she had reluctantly suspected all along: her daughter had type 1 diabetes.
Since then, Jeanne recalls how caring for a child with the chronic, lifelong condition changed her family life. “It infiltrates your life and there is not a part of our family life that it doesn’t touch,” says the mother of two, pointing to a loose-leaf paper, containing a chart scribbled with numbers. She uses this chart to keep track of Olivia’s blood sugar levels and insulin dosages, which need to be adjusted continually.
What is diabetes? In type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes, the pancreas loses its ability to produce any or enough insulin. The only way that the body can once again use sugar for energy is to replace the missing insulin, which is typically given by injection – most children take insulin injections several times a day.
Daily home management also involves attention to meal planning, and careful monitoring of blood, urine, and other factors. Approaching Olivia’s diabetes management as a family has helped Jeanne adapt to her daughter’s condition. “It is important that Olivia doesn’t feel like it’s hers to manage alone,” she says. “[Diabetes management] involves all of us. It’s something that everyone has to help each other to manage. It’s important for us to say that we’re all in this together”.
Adjusting takes time and patience for all family members, and occurs at a different pace for each. Adjustments include regulating food, and parents may need to plan meals in advance instead of acting spontaneously. In the long run, though, all these adjustments become second nature.
Diabetes should not stop children and teens from doing almost all the things their friends would do. It’s just that extra planning is needed to ensure their safety. “When we go on vacation, diabetes literally get’s its own bag,” says Jeanne.
Those who see it as a serious but manageable condition cope better. It is Jeanne’s pragmatic and jovial outlook that helped ease her adjustment. “There is a fatigue that comes with an ongoing condition, particularly with diabetes; it’s every minute of the day, all the time,” she says. “All of these tasks are just a fact of life with diabetes, and there really isn’t an option to say ‘ok we’re not going to do it today’. You have to support each other through it.”
For the original AboutKidsHealth article containing more information about diabetes management, please see:
AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from what we can learn about math for kids, to diabetes management, to buying local foods. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.
Visit www.aboutkidshealth.ca to find out more.
For more information, please contact:
Robin Marwick, Managing Editor
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue