As fall approaches, so does the excitement – and anxiety – that many feel when sending a child off to college. Parents of students with diabetes may wonder, “will my child be able to handle self-care away from home?” Planning and effective routines can minimize the stress for parents and teens alike.
Take a Test Drive
Ideally, your teen has taken charge of day-to-day self-care activities, and has reasonably good glucose control, needing only a few reminders to keep him or her on track, if not, the summer prior to college provides a good opportunity for transitioning responsibility for self-care to your teen. Routines can be fine-tuned in a safe environment.
Stock Up on Supplies
Ensure that your college-bound student has access to needed diabetes supplies. Find a good local pharmacy (visit www.diabetesshoppe. com to find a Diabetes Shoppe member store near campus) and encourage your child to meet the staff so he or she can become familiar with a resource away from home. Check with the college’s health center for the proper way to dispose of used syringes, needles and lancets.
Dormitory roommates and resident assistants should be educated about diabetes and its treatment, as well as what to do in case of extreme hypoglycemia. Those prone to extreme hypoglycemia should have a glucagon emergency kit, and should train a friend or advisor in its use. Students who participate in sports should alert coaches about any health issues. Check with the health center to determine access to emergency services, and be sure the student always wears medical identification.
Master Meal Planning
Between parties, pizza and cafeteria foods, it can be difficult for anyone to stick to a healthy eating plan at college. Students should check glucose levels regularly and should eat at least every four hours. In the event of an all-nighter, keep snacks such as hard candies on hand just in case. Young women should be educated not to skip insulin to lose weight – such as the infamous “freshman 15.”
Unfortunately, exposure to alcohol, drugs and smoking is all too common in college. Students should be aware that alcohol lowers blood glucose, and that the effects of severe hypoglycemia may be confused with being drunk. Drug use can interfere with self-care, and smoking poses serious health risks for people with diabetes.