Becoming A Young Adult: It’s Time To Leave The Nest!
The time has come. You’ve made the decision (or maybe the decision was made for you), and now it’s time to move out of the family home. Perhaps things were getting a little crowded in the house or maybe you’ve scored entry to your first preference of university halfway across the country. Maybe you’re just moving into your own little flat on the next street. Whatever the backstory, as you move out of home, you also move out from under your parents’ care. If you’re living with type 1 diabetes, that means you’re now fully responsible for yourself.
5 Tips On Navigating Your New Freedom (And Responsibilities)
Now without a parent hovering over your shoulder, counting those carbohydrates (carbs) for you, or being in the bedroom next door should you experience an overnight hypoglycaemic event (hypo), it’s all on you. This new independence can be both liberating and daunting. Once you’ve spent some time on your own, you may come to realise just how much your parents did for you. If you’re living with type 1 diabetes, here are 5 tips (and reminders) on how to take care of yourself once you leave the nest.
1. Stay connected with your diabetes healthcare team.
If you’re staying within the same area, you may wish to keep the same people in your diabetes healthcare team. However, if you’re moving to a different area or even a different country, you may want to connect with a new healthcare team there. You can ask your original healthcare team if they can recommend anyone in the area you’re moving to, or simply see which healthcare professionals have the best location and availability. You may also want to take note of your nearest pharmacy.
2. Let those around you know that you’re living with type 1 diabetes.
While you were at home and attending school, your parents probably took the initiative to inform your teachers or school nurses that you were living with type 1 diabetes and what to do in the event of a hypo. Now that you’re out on your own, it’s a good idea to be the one to take this initiative yourself. Let your flatmates know what a hypo looks like and how to help you. If you’re staying in student accommodation at the university, let the people in charge (such as student liaison officers) know too. Your university should have a student support service, which can assist you to make any arrangements you may need (from catering in your accommodation or special considerations during exams).
3. Apply for government financial support or equivalent in your country.
Depending on your country, the healthcare system may provide some financial support for students living with type 1 diabetes. If you’re not sure about what you are eligible for, talk to your diabetes healthcare team for the latest updates.
4. Get yourself up to speed with carb counting.
When living at home, perhaps you didn’t need to think too much about what went on your plate or in your lunch bag – your parents took care of that for you. If you’re now cooking for yourself, you suddenly have a lot of meal planning and grocery shopping to do on your own. If you’re living in student accommodation with catering at university, you now need to pay a lot more attention to what you place on your plate. When it comes to feeding yourself, remember to:
- Balance your diet with carbs, fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
- Read the labels of food packaging for carb content.
- Ask the person who prepared your favourite meals at home for the recipe - if you ask nicely, they might even supply you with the amount of carbs in it too!
5. Sort out your sick day plan.
There’s no more pampering and coddling during a sick day once you’ve moved out of home! Blood glucose (BG) levels can be difficult to manage during an illness1 so it pays to be prepared if you don’t have someone who can cook up chicken broth for you on demand. When you’re unwell, you may need to test your BG more frequently and increase your insulin dosing.1 If you are using an insulin pump you may be able to use the temp basal feature to manage your glucose levels. Work with your diabetes healthcare team to come up with a sick day management plan that you can feel confident with and keep your local doctor’s number on hand. It’s also a good idea to carry out a weekly check to ensure you have plenty of diabetes supplies such as extra tape, test strips, lancets, and a spare battery cap of your Medtronic insulin pump just in case of emergencies.
Once you’ve left the nest, with great freedom comes great responsibility. No one is the boss of you anymore! At first, it may feel overwhelming to suddenly have to juggle all these new experiences and responsibilities. Don’t worry though, practice makes perfect and your diabetes healthcare team is just a phone call away.
- CDC. Managing Sick Days. https://www.cdc.gov/. 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/flu-sick-days.html. (Accessed August 2022).