At first, the signs were nearly imperceptible. Your kid began drinking a lot more water and needed more potty breaks than ever before. Maybe she was constantly tired or experienced inexplicable signs of nausea. In any case, it was clear you needed to take her to a pediatrician.
The diagnosis? Type 1 diabetes mellitus. A disease that impairs your child’s body from producing insulin and introduces a world of new routines, concerns, and fears. It can feel like your child’s life is ending before it even really began.
If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, know that you and your child will work through this. While type 1 diabetes can lead to severe mental and financial burdens, there are ways you both can overcome.
In some ways, diabetes will change the way you view the world. Because it is an autoimmune disease, you will need to be particularly cautious to prevent your youngster from getting ill. As antibiotic-resistant superbugs become more prevalent, people with autoimmune issues need to be especially wary. Take some preventative measures: Teach your child good hygiene habits and make sure her diet has plenty of foods that boost the immune system, such as green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. If she gets sick regardless, regularly check blood glucose and ketone levels. Sickness can affect blood glucose levels, so keep a close eye on these numbers.
When planning a trip, be mindful of the safety of your little one. It is wise to schedule a medical examination prior to any long trips and to ask the pediatrician if it would be advisable to travel. Before going through an airport, ensure that your child’s blood glucose monitor is allowed aboard the plane. While knowledge about diabetes is become more commonplace, it helps to have a doctor’s note that lists the necessary diabetic supplies when going through an airport. This can seriously streamline the process.
Helping Your Child Cope
With a condition like diabetes, simply staying healthy can be a stressful ordeal. The restrictions and routines can add up to a heavy burden, and they can have a serious impact on a kid’s mental well-being. Children with type 1 diabetes are disproportionately affected by mental health problems, such as depression and generalized anxiety disorder. In a study that compared over 17,000 children with diabetes, about 8 percent were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, and they were 1.7 times more likely to attempt suicide.
However, you can reduce this burden. With a supportive network and your help, you can either reduce the chances that your child will struggle with mental health issues or help them if she does. There are many resources out there to guide your parenting. Furthermore, many counselors and other social workers have a presence on social media, and they can provide answers to urgent questions in a relatively quick manner.
Be attentive when your child expresses their emotions and reinforce the idea that there is nothing wrong with the way they feel. If she makes a mistake, avoid excessive punishments. It is especially important that you keep track of how your child is dealing with stress, and to temper your expectations based on her mental welfare. If you believe your child may be at risk for suicide, consider the following questions:
- Is there a history of suicide ideation or self-injury? Tell other guardians and friends so they can be alert. Any suicide attempts or signs of self-injury should be treated as an emergency.
- Has the child expressed thoughts or plans about harming herself? If you have reason to believe that your child may try to hurt herself, discuss the issue with the child and seek help.
- Are weapons or tools easily available that could be used to harm oneself or others? While dealing with a mental condition, young people may consider violence — either self-inflicted or towards others — to be a possible outlet.
Managing the Costs
You probably already know this, but managing a child’s diabetes can get expensive. You will go through thousands of testing strips a year. Combine that with insulin, insulin pump supplies, and syringes, and you are looking at a hefty price tag. Added up, you can easily exceed $30,000 a year in costs for diabetic supplies.
You must make sure your child has adequate insurance and that you are setting aside the money needed to cover their needs each month. The coverage provided from your job may be insufficient to cover their needs, since insurance companies often attach restrictions and waiting periods to diabetic supplies. Depending on your income, she may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). After determining your out-of-pocket expenses after insurance on diabetic supplies each month, calculate how much money you need to set aside each pay period. Use a paycheck calculator to determine your income, and deduct the cost of supplies. This number will be your bottom line to cover all other expenses. You can compromise on a lot of things when it comes to finances, but your child’s health is not one of them.
While insurance will cover some of these needs, you may still need assistance. Explore pharmaceutical assistance programs to see if your little one is eligible to receive free supplies. You should also check with the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), which offers information on assistantship programs.
Don’t let your concerns overwhelm you. Help your child understand the importance of following their new routines and listen attentively to their concerns. Understand that people with diabetes are not defined by their affliction, and explain this to them as well. As actress Dale Evans once said, “Life is not over because you have diabetes. Make the most of what you have — be grateful.” You can help your child adopt this mindset by doing so yourself.
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