Talking to Political Candidates about Diabetes

talking to candidates about diabetes

No matter where you turn, there seems to be someone running for office somewhere. There are many issues that may be of importance to you. Chances are you will also want to talk to political candidates about diabetes.

Who you decide to vote for will ultimately be a personal choice. We have a few tools that will help you to make an informed decision about the candidates running in your area.

In Canada, as in many other countries of the Northern Hemisphere, we are free to evaluate candidates and elect those we judge to be most in line with our own values.  For people living with diabetes, this often means searching out candidates who are willing to invest in research; who will help to reduce the cost of diabetes supplies; and who will help everyone living with diabetes to have equal access to devices, supplies, and programs

How can you find out what their opinions are on issues that surround people with diabetes? How can you figure out if they know anything about diabetes? Here are a few things that you can do.

Talk to political candidates about diabetes when they come to your door

Often candidates will tour neighbourhoods asking for your support.  When a candidate comes to your door, ask them directly how they feel about lowering the cost of diabetes care? Will they consider expanding the current insulin pump program to include CGMs or include people of all ages who require insulin? Ask them if they support increased funding for research and development.  Find out where they stand on the issues that matter to you.

Question them when they call you

Candidates and their supporters also will reach out to potential voters over the phone. Again, this is your chance to ask them one-on-one what they think and how they will support people living with diabetes if they are elected (or re-elected).

Reach out to candidates through social media

Many candidates nowadays have a strong social media presence as part of their campaign.  Reach out to the candidates in your riding or contact the parties who are running candidates in your area and ask them for their position.  Have they included diabetes-related issues in their platform? Are they planning on it? These are just some of the questions that you can ask on Facebook or Twitter pages for example.

You can also look for your local political hashtag like #nlpoli or #peipoli to call out all candidates in your province.  Posing a question and using a political hashtag or tagging candidates can generate some great interactions both from those in office and those looking to be elected.

Attend town hall meetings

townhall meeting

Contact party offices to see if their candidates will be hosting any town hall meetings.  These are forums that allow constituents to stand up and ask for opinions on issues that are important to them.  You may only have a short amount of time, but it can allow you to get those questions out there. You can also enlist friends and family to attend. Your larger presence can show the candidates how important this issue is.

Submit questions to news program debates

debating

Often leaders of political parties will take part in live debates.  News programs will usually reach out to the general public to ensure that they have a broad variety of questions to present to candidates.  Send in your questions and again, allow your voice to be heard.

To make it easier to keep track of what each candidate has to say and to ensure that you are clear on what you want to know, we have created a great single-page download. With this page, you can clarify your ask as well as take notes on the information provided to you by the various candidates.

35 Candy-free Easter Basket Ideas

Candy free Easter

It is almost that time of year again. Time for Easter treats, Easter hunts, the Easter bunny and memorable time with family.  Our house was never really big on a lot of chocolate at Easter.  There was the occasional trail of jelly beans for them to follow but for the most part, my children loved to search for hidden treats like small cars, new colouring books and a new movie to watch. 

Parents of children with diabetes know that it is possible to cover treats with insulin.  If you are multiple daily injections or an insulin pump, you can simply inject or bolus insulin to cover the treat based on your carb to insulin ratio.  Despite that fact, many parents of children with diabetes or not, don’t want to give their children a lot of sugar and are looking for alternatives. For those who are trying to control the amount of “junk food” that their children eat, it can be a challenge to come up with candy-free alternatives. 

Here is a quick list of 35 items we came up with to fill Easter baskets that don’t include candy.

  • Stickers
  • Finger puppets
  • Lip gloss
  • Magic grow toys
  • Bounce balls
  • Magic grow capsules
  • Glitter glue
  • Hair ties
  • Earrings
  • Wind-up toys
  • Slime
  • Play dough
  • Silly putty
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Toy cars
  • Bubbles
  • Nail polish
  • Colouring books
  • Crayons
  • Toy cars
  • Books
  • Movie passes
  • Lego
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bath toys
  • Ear phones
  • Body wash
  • Bath bombs
  • Silly string
  • Sunglasses
  • Gift cards
  • Plush toys
  • Tooth brush
  • Socks
  • Body spray

If you are still struggling to fill your child’s basket? Check out these great ideas…

For One-year-olds

easter for one year olds

Baby O and I has fun suggestions including PlayDough packs and rubber boots! Read all of their suggestions here.

For Toddlers

candy free for toddlers

Mommy Takes 5 shows you everything that you need for a toddlers basket from the basket itself to great things to put in it right here!

For all ages

candy free easter

The Teal Bandit has another 35 ides perfect for kids of all ages here.

Heather, over at Finding Our Green Life shares healthy treats as well as more great basket ideas here!

What is your favourite Easter basket idea? Let us know in the comments!

5 tips for eating out abroad when you have diabetes

Having just returned from a trip away, I know how important it can be to plan ahead when eating. Here are some great tips from our guest blogger Patrice Lewis.

Planning a holiday when you have medical conditions can be tricky. There’s packing the right medications, concerns like eating out and finding an insurance package which will actually cover your condition. For those with diabetes, there’s no need for it to be a barrier to enjoying your overseas holiday. Here are five tips for helping you enjoy the cuisines of other countries:

1. Research the restaurants at your destination location

do your research

Just like eating out at home there’s no real way to know the exact ingredients of every dish placed before you when you’re on holiday. However, it’s possible to use the internet to have a browse of the local eateries before you travel. This allows you to get a sense of what food will be on offer, before you commit to your holiday plans. If the destination only has high carb, and high sugar offerings, it might not be the best place to eat out every night. There will nearly always be somewhere, though, where you can find food to complement your diet.

2. Use forums, blogs, and ask questions

Websites and blogs like the one you’re currently reading and others have a wealth of information for those with diabetes. Search for diabetes forums and you’ll probably find that plenty of people have already asked the questions you need the answers to. If not, there’s normally a friendly community you can join to ask about eating out at your preferred destination. Use the experience of others, and when you return from holiday, you’ll be able to share your own experiences and advice.

3. Consider how much exercise you’ve had that day

exercise

You might have a pretty strict diet at home, and be completely on top of managing your blood sugar levels. It’s worth remembering, though, that when you’re on holiday you might exercise a lot more than on a standard day at home. Swimming, hiking, walking on the beach and even souvenir shopping can all cause your blood sugar to drop to lower levels than you might be used to. Glucose tablets can be a real help with this, as detailed in this blog entry about eating out when on cruise ships. Consider your level of activity when thinking about how often you need to be sitting down to eat, and what sort of food you should be eating.

4. Plan your day out to include plenty of food stops

If you are out and about all day, have a think about how often you’ll need to stop and refuel to keep your blood sugar levels where they need to be. If you’re planning a whole day out in the back of beyond, you might struggle unless you carry loads of provisions. Check what restaurants and cafes there are along your route, and take advantage of them accordingly.

5. Mention your condition to restaurant staff

Don’t be afraid to tell the staff that you have diabetes. What looks like something very savoury might actually be full of hidden sugars that you will want to properly cover with insulin. Discussing this with staff could stop you from getting a very nasty surprise indeed!

To learn more about making your vacation memorable, see more tips on our travel page.

10 Tips for Cruising with Type 1 Diabetes

cruising with diabetes

I am getting ready to head off for my first ever cruise so I was super excited when Rebekah Svensson of Awkwardyethealthy.com agreed to share tips on cruising with type 1 diabetes!

I have Type 1 Diabetes (and I have for the past 18 years) and I have been on exactly ONE cruise. A Disney cruise to be exact. Therefore, I declare myself an expert! Well, not really, but I do have some useful tips for my fellow Type 1’s who are looking to go on a cruise!

Type 1 Diabetes is no joke, and as we all know, things can go from just fine to really bad in the blink of an eye. And being on a ship in the middle of nowhere is probably not the best place for that to happen. Whether it’s you, your spouse, your child, or another member of your traveling party Diabetes can be a huge storm cloud. So how do we keep that nasty rain away?

1. Pack double the supplies. And then pack some more.

luggage to pack

This is one area I do not skimp on in any circumstances. Personally, I am a pump user, so I pack enough ‘hardware’ to get me through twice the length of my trip. And then I usually pack a few more just in case.

If you’re a pumper you know that sometimes infusion sites don’t work right, or reservoirs get all wonky. I choose not to stress about it by bringing plenty. This includes batteries too. Oddly, on our family cruise, I didn’t have an extra battery and Guest Service’s came to my rescues. I did NOT enjoy being in that situation. Also, it’s a good reminder that there are no REAL stores on board.

2. Bring extra insulin when cruising with type 1 diabetes

Bring an extra vial if you can. I broke a vial of Lantus once while overseas. Thankfully I had another even though I technically wouldn’t have needed it based on the length of the trip. It can be a huge hassle, but you’ll feel a million times better knowing it’s there if you need it. Because on a ship in the middle of the ocean it’s going to be hard to come by.

3. Carry Glucose Tablets

One thing everyone told me about before our cruise was there is SO. MUCH. FOOD. But the thing is, the food is not ALWAYS available. Or room service might not be quick enough. There’s also the issue of the dining schedule not necessarily being YOUR schedule, which can mean unpredictable sugars. My solution? Always, always, always, carry glucose tablets. Carrying a small purse or backpack is a small price to pay. Throw some glucagon in there too for good measure.

4. Ask to see the menu in advance

food

At least in my experience (I also have Celiac Disease), the waitstaff has access to the next day’s menu at dinner time. Ask to see it! Also, don’t hesitate to ask for substitutions! We all know how hard it can be when you don’t prepare the food yourself, it makes carb counting nearly impossible. The best way to combat that? Knowledge.

Ask for all the information you can possibly have. Tell your waitstaff you have dietary restrictions (Yes, you do. No disagreements here. You need to know what’s in your food. You are NOT bothering anyone!). You can also request that there be something brought to you immediately or waiting at your table, like a glass of juice, just in case. If highs are more your problem, ask them to skip the bread course or give you half portions of certain things. Whatever you do, don’t just eat blindly. I think we all know how bad that can turn out.

5. Plan your day

I know, I know, it’s VACATION! Why should you have to plan!? But hear me out. Think about your meals. If you know that night’s dinner is carb heavy PLAN FOR IT. If you know you want the sugary margarita or you Type 1 kiddo wants ice cream, build it into your day.

Some of us diabetics are a lot stricter than others, so for the stricter folks this won’t seem so bad. For the rest of us who tend to wing it, this can suck. But you know what sucks more? A reading of 400mg/dl (22.2mmol) and getting sick hundreds of miles away from proper medical care. It just isn’t worth it.

If you know you have a physically demanding excursion plan your margarita that day. Lounging on the pool deck all day? Might not be the best time for that 100g carb dessert. It doesn’t have to be down to the minute, but just try and match your carb intake to your cruise activities at the very least.

This is true for ANY vacation, but even more important on a cruise. Simply because you will have access to ALL. THE. TREATS but you might not have a chance to get off the ship for pleasure or medical care.

6. Take a note from your doctor

You will most likely be going in and out of different countries, on and off the ship through security, and traveling on a plane at some point. So have a note from a physician handy. Most security folks nowadays are familiar with Diabetes and the plethora of stuff that comes with it, but just in case it’s good to have a note explaining that you NEED it.

Traveling with needles, vials of medicine, and weird looking medical supplies can make some people uneasy, so this is a just-in-case that will pay off in the rare chance someone tries to take away your supplies. And ALL your supplies should be carry-on by the way. Always. Whether it’s on the plane or getting on the ship, keep them in your personal bag that stays with you.

7. Medical Alert ID: WEAR IT!

I am so guilty of this. I never wear mine, I loathe the thing. But a cruise is a very important place for a Type 1 Diabetic to be properly identified. If anything happens to you and you are not with an adult member of you party this will be what is used to treat you. If you are incoherent this is what will tell the ship’s doctor that you are not just drunk but might be in DKA. Accept the hideous tan line and wear it. While there are doctors on board, this will not be a full-blown hospital. So, if the worst is to happen it’s better to have the information on you and ready to go.

8. Set timers for blood sugar checks

set alarms

It may seem like overkill but set a timer for every 4ish hours during the day to check your sugar. I wear a Continuous Glucose Monitor, but I still checked more often while cruising because the swings could be so dramatic.

With today’s glucometers they are super-fast and super small, so throw it in with your glucose tablets and just take the time to check every so often. I found that we would be away from our room for very long spans of time, so it was easier to carry it with me in my ‘go bag’ rather than return to the room just for a BG check.

9. Talk about it

I know it annoys the crap out of my family and friends when I mention that I have Type 1 in conversations with strangers or servers. But guess what? The more people that know the more people that can help you. Unfortunately, this disease is not as rare as it should be and sometimes you run into a fellow Type 1 (or family member) and they have some good information for you. Or it’s a chance to educate someone. Or it helps remind YOU of what you need to be doing. If you talk about it, you can’t ignore it!

10. Loosen the reigns a bit and have fun!

If it’s you that it Type 1 diabetes, you are probably fine with this. If it is your spouse or your child, you are likely not ok with this. But, for the sake of your sanity, broaden your range of acceptable sugars a bit. Not to the point of getting sick but expect some lows and just know that there will be more highs than you’d like.

Even with planning your days a bit, taking all the precautions, and counting the carbs to the best of your ability there will still be unexplainable swings. If you are prepared, they will be nothing more than a minor speedbump. But if you are cruising with type 1 diabetes and expecting perfection, you will be miserable. Type 1 Diabetes is not a disease to be taken lightly, but it should also not rule your life. Make sure you have fun and ENJOY IT!

have fun

Those are some of my thoughts! Of course, there’s always the drink water, eat your fruits and veggies, and get plenty of exercise that all Diabetics are hammered with every day. It still applies on a cruise y’all. Just do it. I know life isn’t fair, but we can handle it, we’re tough.

My personal experience on a cruise with type 1 diabetes was that I had more frequent highs and occasional lows that weren’t very predictable. There was a ton to indulge in, and I did. Maybe too much. But the waitstaff was wonderful at being helpful and informative, the crew was very understanding and always willing to go above and beyond to help in any way, and while I did not have any experience with the medical staff on board, knowing they were there provided peace of mind. Cruising with Type 1 Diabetes is definitely worth it. With a little foresight and flexibility, it can be a truly great vacation!

If you’d like to learn more about me, Rebekah Svensson, feel free to visit my blog Awkwardyethealthy.com!

Happy Cruising!

To make your next vacation with diabetes a little easier, why not download our complete guide to traveling with diabetes. It has packing checklists as well as a list of things to do before you go.

The Signs of Diabetes. Do You Know Them?

I sat in the doctor’s office. It was a room that I had sat in many times before but this time was different. My son was laying lifelessly in my arms.  I was terrified.

We had been to the hospital for bloodwork and x-rays. He hadn’t stirred. I looked across the room and saw a poster that had probably been there for the past 10 years or more but I had never noticed it.  It showed the signs of diabetes.  I have never paid attention before.  It was a disease that happened to other people…until it didn’t.

As I waited I read….

warning signs of diabetes
Frequent urination

My son did nothing but soak his diapers for weeks. We were going through Pampers in record time and I had blankets on my couch because accidents were happening.

Constant thirst

We had been to the emergency room in the days before and they said that it was a good sign that he was drinking.  Even when he seemed too weak to get up, he could walk to the fridge and drink a carton of apple juice. They assured me that this was a positive thing.

signs of diabetes blurred vision
Blurred vision

My son was 2 years old.  He spent most of his time in my arms. I had no idea if his vision was blurred.  He had no way to tell me either.

Fatigue

My son slept all of the time.  He was sick.  I knew that much.  Sleep was a good thing for a little boy who wasn’t feeling well.

Unexplained Weight-loss

My son had always been tiny.  He hadn’t been eating a lot. Of course, he was slight.

Fruity breath

My son had sweet little boy breath.  I didn’t know that there was anything else that could possibly be going on.

Thrush or other yeast infections

This was another of the warning signs of diabetes.  Why did a two-year-old have thrush? The emergency room doctor didn’t offer any explanation.  He simply gave us antibiotics.

I didn’t know the symptoms. I didn’t know that warning signs and neither did the ER doctor. It almost cost my son his life.

symptoms of highs and lows

Know the signs.  Share them with others.  Together we can save lives. 

Download a copy of the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar levels here.

Hot Tips for Managing Diabetes in the Deep Winter Cold

winter tips with diabetes

The weather outside is frightful! The temperatures are dropping and we are in the midst of deep winter cold.  Managing to stay warm can be a challenge on days like these, so how do you manage your diabetes in the winter? Here are a few things to remember…

Insulin freezes.

Insulin is liquid. It can freeze. Make sure not to leave insulin in your car.  When you are outside, keep it close to your body. This also means that if you are using an insulin pump, make sure to tuck your pump close to your body to keep things running properly.

If you think your insulin has been frozen, throw it out! Don’t take any chances.  It will not work as efficiently once the proteins have been frozen.

Keep warm!

That means keeping your diabetes devices warm as well! I just told you to keep the insulin in your pump warm, but did you also know that your pump (like your phone) also needs to stay warm? Keep your pump and CGM under your winter clothing and as close to your body as you can.

If you are using a tSlim pump, watch for the low-temperature warning on the pump.  This will tell you that your pump is not functioning as it should because of the cold.

Check your blood glucose level.

I know, you normally check but when it is cold out make sure that you still check…a lot.  Some people see their bg levels rise in the cold weather while others see it go up.  Don’t guess or go by how you feel–check then adjust with food or insulin.

Before you check, make sure that your meter is warm as well.  Glucometers function poorly below 40F (4C).  If you feel that your glucometer could be too cold, warm it in your armpit for a few minutes. It will quickly return to a functioning state.

Keep your hands warm.

It can be hard to check your blood glucose levels when fingers are cold and blood isn’t circulating properly.  Keep your hands warm and toasty to help make finger sticks a bit easier.  Wear warm gloves. You may want to consider using mitts that have removable fingers to make it easier to check.

Carry glucose that won’t freeze.

Juice packs are a handy way to treat lows but when you are playing in the snow, glucose tablets and granola bars are probably a better choice.  Also make sure to keep your glucagon warm and safe.  Frozen glucagon will be as useful as frozen insulin.

Winter activities can be fun but make sure you are prepared.  Follow some of these few hot tips to manage diabetes in the winter and enjoy your time in Mother Nature’s deep freeze!

Preparing for Disasters with Type 1 Diabetes

This year we have seen many mandatory evacuations because of both hurricanes and fires.  When you live with diabetes in your home, how do you prepare for disasters? Do you have a list of evacuation supplies checked off and ready to go?

People in the hurricane states, often have an emergency tote or bag that they can grab on the way out of the door but remembering everything that you could need can be a challenge.  Over the years, we have come up with a detailed list of evacuation supplies for people with diabetes.  In lieu of recent events, I thought that it might be a good time to go over some of the items we think you need when preparing for disasters with type 1 diabetes.

Download your free emergency evacuation supplies checklist here.

Keep a diabetes bag near the door

diabetes supplies bag

As I mentioned, it is important to have all of your supplies in a quick, easy-to-grab container. Evacuations can be planned, but sometimes you are only given minutes to have all of your valuables ready to leave.  Make sure your diabetes bag is always in the same place so that you won’t waste valuable time trying to find it.

Packing Basics

Make sure that you have some of the basics like a Frio pack if you live in a warm climate.  You will also want a flashlight and spare batteries in case your area loses power.  Candles and wooden matches can also provide light and heat if need be.

A first aid kit should also be in your emergency container. While you may have a lot of diabetes supplies, other medical emergencies can happen and basic first aid is a must.  Don’t forget to add anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea medication to your kit.  You should also have copies of all prescriptions in case you are away from your home pharmacy and need to access your medication refills.

Food and drink

We have all seen the images of people stocking up on cases of water and in an emergency it is vital.  If you have drinkable tap water, fill up milk jugs, juice jugs, and other items with water to take with you.  Also pack juice packs, tinned food as well as cheese and cracker snacks. If you pack tinned items, don’t forget a hand can-opener as well.

Diabetes Supplies

tote for diabetes supplies

It is recommended that you pack two weeks worth of diabetes supplies with you during an evacuation.  Consider bringing a spare meter, spare batteries, alcohol wipes, pump supplies, insulin, syringes, ketone strips, and medical tape.

Other items to remember

Don’t forget to bring spare blankets, cash in case bank machines are down, and pet food for your furry family members.

I am sure that I have forgotten a few things but I would suggest that you view the Diabetes Advocacy Emergency page or download the evacuation checklist.  This will help you feel a bit more prepared should a disaster hit your community.

Get your free evacuation supplies checklist here. 

Tips for Managing Diabetes in the Summer

managing diabetes in the summer

It’s summer!! I mean it really is finally summer! Some areas have been enjoying great weather for a bit but where I live–well, I kind of wondered if summer was ever going to show up.   Now that it is really here, let’s talk about a few tips for managing diabetes in the summer months.

Keep your insulin and test strips cool.

Summer heat can literally ruin blood glucose test strips and insulin.  If you are on injections, make sure to keep your insulin stored in a cool place. If you are pumping, again, make sure that your pump doesn’t get overheated.  You may even want to consider changing out your cartridges more often to ensure that your insulin is fresh and hasn’t been compromised by the heat.

Frio Pack  for managing diabetes in the summer diabetes advocacy

Test strips also react to extreme temperatures.  Again, make sure that they are stored in a cool place.  If you are traveling to the beach or theme parks, you may want to invest in a FRIO Insulin Cooling Pump Wallet.  They are convenient little cooling packs that will help to keep things chilled.

If you don’t have access to Frio packs, another great suggestion is to use frozen juice packs.  You can keep your supplies cool and are prepared for lows!

Mastistol and Antiperspirant are pumpers’ new best friends.

mastisol to stick infusion sets in the summer diabetes advocacy

Summer often means swimming and swimming can mean chlorine. Chlorine can bring extra headaches for people with diabetes using an insulin pump in the summer. Personally,  the only way for us  to keep sites on in chlorine was by making sure that a product like Mastisol Liquid Adhesive was used on the skin prior to set insertion.

For people using an insulin pump and/or a CGM, you may also want to look at using an antiperspirant on the site.  Apply a light coat of antiperspirant (not deodorant) to the insertion site area.  This will help to keep sites in place when your body begins to sweat!

Have snacks everywhere.

jelly beans to treat summer lows diabetes advocacy

Summer heat can bring its own challenges for managing diabetes. It tends to mean more exertion and rapidly dropping blood glucose levels.  Make sure to carry extra snack foods with you wherever you go.  One parent suggests that you stock up on Freezies.  They are perfect treats for lows and also help ward off dehydration.  Other families have suggested fruit and frozen grapes as must have snacks for on the go.

Drink lots of water.

water diabetes advocacy

Dehydration is a real problem in the heat.  It is especially important for people living with diabetes to stay hydrated because dehydration will cause blood glucose levels to spike.

Check BG levels often.

Blood Ketone meter diabetes advocacy

Heat, exhaustion and the fun of the sun can really mess with blood glucose levels so make sure that you check blood glucose levels often to avoid any serious diabetes-related emergencies.

Bring extras!

infusion sets diabetes advocacy

As I have said, infusion sets can fall out.  Blood sugar levels can go crazy.  It is vital that you carry extras of everything–extra snacks, extra water, extra test strips, extra insulin and extra infusion sets just in case.

Wear sunscreen.

sunscreen diabetes advocacy

I know, everyone is supposed to wear sunscreen so really is this a diabetes issue? Well no…and yes! It turns out that sunburns have been known to really mess with blood glucose levels.  The moral of the story? Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen to help keep blood glucose levels in check.

Have fun!

toddler from Diabetes Advocacy

Finally, in Canada especially, we just don’t seem to see summer for long enough so plan ahead and enjoy all that this summer has to offer you and your family!

If you are planning on traveling to find the sun this year, don’t forget to check out our complete travel checklist so that you don’t forget anything before you go!

It Will Happen and It Will Be Okay–Transitioning to Adult Diabetes Care

graduation

It will happen and it will be okay. That’s what I would tell myself if I could talk to the diabetes parent that I was 15 years ago.

You see, once upon a time I could tell you what my son’s bg level was at 3am. I could tell you what his reading was before breakfast. I knew if he had run high or low during school. I would be able to give you his pre and post supper glucose readings. I knew it all.

I knew when his last site change was. I knew what his last A1c was. Years ago, I could tell you when his glucagon kit was going to expire and how many carbs he ate with his last meal.

Today, I can tell you that my son does test his bg levels. His last site change was just the other night. I know this because he asked for my help.  I know that he sees his diabetes doctor again in April. I know that he has some insulin in the fridge.

I have no idea what his last A1c was. His current basal rates are a mystery to me. It’s a real challenge for me to use his insulin pump.

Years ago, I would never believe that I wouldn’t know these things. I swore that I would always test my son at night as long as he was in my house. I would be hands on in my son’s diabetes care  forever. I was certain. I was wrong.

If you are like I was, you are having a stroke reading this. You are probably thinking…Not me! I will know everything regarding their diabetes care always! I thought so too.

For the bulk of his childhood,  I knew every carbohydrate that entered my son’s mouth. I wrote down every exercise that he did and how it impacted his readings. I micromanaged my son’s type one diabetes like nobody’s business. His care would take me over 40 hours per week.  It literally was a full-time job. Keeping my son alive and healthy was one of my top priorities.

The health of my children is still very important to me but this strange thing has happened–they have become adults.  As an adult, my son has asked that I don’t test him at night.  Sadly he wakes up a lot during the night now and tests himself.  He doesn’t see the sense in bothering me as well.

Because my son is an adult, he comes and goes when he pleases.  He treats his lows at work. He programs his pump while he is at school.  My son is completely in charge of his diabetes care.

It was terrifying at first I will admit. I had a need to know.  He had just as strong of a need for me not to know. He would be vague with his answers about bg readings if he answered at all.  It didn’t matter if I was mad or upset.  It was his condition to deal with and he would quietly show me that he could handle it….and when he couldn’t he would ask me for help.

As I have watched him handle his diabetes care,  I have been amazed.  We still occasionally share carb count guesses. I will look up the carb counts in certain food for him.  I will suggest a temporary basal when he is working long hours.  He will tell me what he has already done.

My role in diabetes care is now  on the periphery.  It shocks me that I have managed it but I have.  One day you will step aside too.  It will be hard.  How far you step will be between you and your child but eventually you will no longer know how to work their insulin pump either.  One day you won’t know their A1c but they will still call you when the going is rough–for you or for them.  For me, that remains a  huge comfort.

I have gone from the most hands on parent on the planet to an average mom.  Diabetes no longer is in my every thought. I now only think of it every few hours.  The most amazing thing is that I am somewhat okay with it all.  Don’t get me wrong, the control freak lives on and would love to know more but my son is an adult.  As a young adult, he has taken ownership of his diabetes and Mom is only allowed glimpses when he deems it okay.

Test Strip Coverage. How many is enough?

test strips. How many do you need? Diabetes Advocacy

Recently the British Columbian government announced that they would be restricting the number of test strips that they covered for people with diabetes.  Those using insulin would only receive 3000 test strips per 365 days.  Those who did not use insulin would be given significantly less.

BC is not the first province to do this.  The table below shows that there are very few provinces offering strip coverage that truly matches the needs of individuals with diabetes.

test strip coverage

What do coverage limits on test strips mean?

Are we simply too greedy? Do we want our provincial governments to cover too much? Are we testing too often? 3000 test strips is a little over 8 tests per day.  Shouldn’t that be enough?

My son ideally tests before each meal, two hours after every bolus, before and after exercise, before bed, and at least once during the night. He has used up his eight test strips before he has done his regular work out or retested after a low.  He does not have any strips to spare if there is a strip error.  He also doesn’t have anything extra for sick days when we know that a person will go through a ridiculous amount of strips thanks to highs, ketones, and vomiting.

Are people wasting test strips?

I read somewhere that the idea behind these restrictions was to help make people think a bit more before they test.  We don’t want them to just be testing willy-nilly and wasting strips.  That made no sense to me.

Why does someone willingly want to lance their finger for the fun of it? Yes, some people without diabetes like to do this to make sure that their blood glucose levels are in check but why would a person with diabetes whose fingertips already are a mess of black dots and scars want to poke themselves just for giggles?  They won’t!

My son is 17.  He tests when he has to and absolutely no more.  He tests when he feels that his blood glucose is on a fast rise or fall. He tests when he knows that something is off in his body and it needs his immediate attention.  It is never something done for fun.  It is done to keep him alive, healthy and productive.

Why should taxpayers cover test strips?

Why is it such a big deal for people to have their test strips covered? Why should tax payers care about covering the cost of test strips for people with diabetes who do not have private insurance? Because the cost of not helping them is far too high.

If people with diabetes are not testing their blood glucose levels, they are not able to note consistent highs or even lows that will silently damage their bodies.  They will not feel as healthy and they will  begin to miss more days of work. Over time they will develop complications that will completely take them out of the workforce and put a huge drain on the health care system.

4500 test strips per year for example would equate to testing just over 12 times per day.  That would be an extra $1050-1500 per year for those individuals who max out their test strip limit. Compare that amount to $263,000 per year that governments pay for hemodialysis which can result from poor diabetes control. Sadly, too many of provincial governments do not see the long term.  They see the possible $1500 per person per year that they are saving and stop there.  They are not concerned with the drain on the health care system in 5 or 10 years down the road.  They won’t be in office then and it will be someone else’s problem.

This thinking needs to change.  It is not just about the health concerns that they are creating for tomorrow by failing to properly care for people living with diabetes today. It is also about the money that they are losing from these individuals today.  People living with diabetes can lead very full and productive lives. They can be doctors, lawyers, plumbers, and mechanics.  There is very little that they cannot do when they are able to avail of the tools that help them to regulate their blood glucose levels properly.

When these individuals do not have the proper tools they miss time from work or may even have to remove themselves from the labour market.  They require the assistance of more government services rather than helping to pay for them.  Keep people living with diabetes healthy is to the benefit of everyone in society.  The reward in quality of life, longevity, and productivity far outweighs the cost of a few thousand dollars each year.