Being the Parent of a Juvenile Diabetic.
Tiana when first diagnosed.
The Worst Parent Ever
One of the worst things to hear as a parent is that something might be wrong with your child. The feeling of hopelessness and grief is immense. We blame ourselves first without any rationality to it and ask ourselves "If only I would've...". But the fact is that, most of the times, there really wasn't much for us to do.
My daughter got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on March of 2014. She was only 3 years old. I felt like such a failure as a parent. One, for not being able to prevent it and two, for not recognizing the symptoms. Being a nurse, myself, made me feel even worse but healthcare professionals are sometimes, if not MOST of the time, blind to our own family health issues. This was now going to be a huge lifestyle change!
Can Type 1 Diabetes Be Prevented?
The answer is simple... No. Though Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, Type 1 diabetes is hereditary. Meaning, it is all in the genes. This is the part that I want parents to wrap their minds around. This disease is NOT your fault. This was not caused by the candy you may have given your child. This was INEVITABLE.
Once you have come to grips with the sobering fact that it was out of your hands, you can then move forward. The next couple of months will be critical and overwhelming, but believe it or not, it will be manageable. It may even give the entire family the opportunity to adapt a healthier lifestyle.
What IS Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, often referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, is an autoimmune disease. Usually triggered by an unrelated infection, the body attacks the beta cells in the pancreas. The pancreas in return is not able to produce the insulin to turn sugar into energy. This forces the pancreas to attempt to work harder until eventually, stops all together. This was thought to affect only small children (hence the name Juvenile Diabetes) and therefore any adolescent or adult would be misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is diet controlled. Studies have found though, that Type 1 diabetes can be triggered at any stage of life.
Is your Child on insulin pens or a pump?
Common Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
Now let's discuss the most common symptoms.
- Frequent Urination: My child, at age 3, was already potty trained but for some reason her "accidents" became more frequent. Eventually, her trips to the bathroom may have happened with approximately 5 minute intervals.
- Increased Thirst: My daughter became so thirsty that she even requested for water, which she was not a fan of. It seemed as if no matter how much she drank, her thirst was never quenched.
- Rapid Weight Loss: When the disease is first triggered, you will notice a rapid weight loss. This, in a toddler, can be mistaken for a phase or a growth spur as they seemed to just be slimming down. The important part is keeping tract of how FAST the weight loss has occurred. But no need to worry, as their sugars are managed they will gain their appetite and weight back.
- Irritability: You may see your child may get upset more frequently and easily over things that they may not have been bothered with before.
- Headaches: When sugars are high, diabetics will often complain of a headache.
- Blurred Vision: You may notice your child rubbing their eyes frequently. Attempting to focus better. The eyes may look sunken or tired with the strain caused on their vision.
- Cold and Clammy: Their skin may feel extremely cold and clammy as their sugars spike. Specifically the hands and forehead.
- Drowsiness: On the downside, your child may be drowsy or sluggish as their sugars drop. This can be the scary part, for they may even become non-responsive or difficult to arouse.
If your child presents 2 or more of these symptoms together, please visit the doctor'a office immediately. It is better to find out sooner rather than later.
Tiana Showing Off Her Pink Insulin Pump
So Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes.
So your child has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Now what do you do? The first thing you must do is educate yourself, but educate yourself wisely. In the hospital they will bombard you with so much information at once that you will not be able to retain it all. On top of all of this, your family and friends will feel the need to provide their own advice and opinions, I want you to chuck it all to the side.
Only you know your child best. Once he/she has been discharged and you return home, do some research. This will be a hard transition not only for your child but for you as well. Research not only on the disease process itself but on ways to cope with it. Find recipes that are low in carbs that you think your child might enjoy. You will be surprised at all the foods and treats you can make. Include your child in this so that they can OWN their disease and not let the disease own them. Their biggest stress right now will not be the shots as we might think. Their biggest stress will be, what goodies can I eat now?
Allow them to take part in managing their sugars. Though we might be scare that they will do it wrong, it is easier to allow them to take part in it now. My daughter is 3 and can already check her own sugars. This will give them control of their disease. There are a lot of children's books out now that explain diabetes in a fun way for them. Sign them up for diabetic camp so they can meet other children with diabetes. In other words, make diabetes FUN and don't forget to include the rest of your family in all of this. The children need to know that they are not alone and that this is not a punishment for anything they have done.
Here is a fun recipe that you might want to try.
Tiana with her black and pink polka dots SPIbelt.
Check out these cute insulin pump pouches!
Lifestyle Changes for a Type 1 Diabetic.
Here are some tips on what lifestyle changes that would benefit not just your child but the entire family and always remember to make it FUN!
- Plan healthier meals: Low carbs diets can be beneficial for the entire family. It is important to make sure your child does not feel isolated but do not attempt to remove carbs all together. This is impossible. Find ways to make your child's favorite meals in a healthier way. For example, use brown rice instead of white, whole grain pancakes are fun too!
- Stay Active: You don't have to formulate an entire work out plan but you MUST exercise. Take more frequent trips to the park or organize a family softball game. Keeping your child active will help regulate their sugars.
- Join Community Groups: If you look for them I'm positive you will find them. Unfortunately nowadays 1 out of every 3 children will be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. socializing with parents that are dealing with the same issues will help you emotionally. You will see there's plenty of us out there. This will also give your child an opportunity to meet friends like then.
- Get to know your doctor: your Endocronologist will play a huge part in your lives. You might as well think of them as family now. Do not feel intimidated by their title. Ask questions. Stay in touch.
Foods That Help Lower Blood Sugar
- Cinnamon (Specifically Ceylon)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Coconut Oil
Fun Diabetic Accessories
I want to take the time out to quickly mention some accessories that make diabetes as I say, FUN. My daughter now has the insulin pump instead of receiving shots 4 to 5 times daily. I have found what is called the SPIBelt. A fun sports belt that comes in a variety of colors and patterns. My daughter loves it and it also makes it more comfortable to carry it in. There are plenty of other styles and brands out there. This one just happened to fit my daughters needs better and was economical.
Also, at the hospital you may have been given a sports band that states "Type 1 Diabetic". This is very important for your child to carry as it makes people aware of their diagnosis in case of an emergency. They now make these bracelets and necklaces in different materials, shapes and colors. There are a lot of vendors out there.