Q: Our wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks and it would mean a lot to me if my husband and I could get away for the weekend. It has now been two months since our 5-year-old daughter's diagnosis with type 1 diabetes. We asked my mother, our only family member who lives close by, to watch our daughter, but she said she's too scared something will go wrong. Our daughter spent the night with her all the time before the diagnosis. Should we cancel the trip or attempt to find someone else? How can I help my mother get over this fear?
A: At two months out from diagnosis, if your daughter's blood sugars are more stable and her care routine settled in place, taking a weekend away for the two of you to rest, recharge -- and celebrate – may be just what the doctor ordered.
As for your mother's concerns, has she ever received training in blood sugar management? And how familiar is she with your daughter's daily schedule? Why not invite Grandma over to see what a day in the life of your child with diabetes is really like? Have her shadow you as you carry out everyday tasks like reading labels and counting carbohydrates for meals and snacks, checking blood sugar, and administering insulin. Explain what you're doing the first few times as she watches, and then have her give it a try.
At the end of the day, sit down together and create a checklist schedule that shows exactly what you just did (breaking it down by the hour is usually helpful). Is she starting to feel more confident? The second layer of information she needs to know is what to do in case of emergency. Review the warning signs of highs and lows and how to respond. Print these instructions out on a brightly colored piece of paper and stick it on the fridge (and give her one for her fridge at home). Do the same with your contact information, including the hotel where you will be staying, your child's doctor, and any special emergency phone numbers.
If the plan includes having your child stay at your mother's house in a different town, get together any additional emergency information she might need, like a copy of your child's insurance card and the name of a preferred local hospital. Having your daughter wear a medic alert bracelet, if she doesn't already, is also helpful.
Kids easily pick up on it when caregivers are fearful of their condition or squeamish about blood sugar management. Before the big weekend (and before you both make up your minds about whether or not this care plan is going to work out), pick a night and have Grandma fly solo for a few hours. Did all go well? Were there a few kinks? Debrief when you get home and talk her through what happened and what could be changed for next time.
If your normally hands-on mom is still acting standoffish despite ample training, you may need to dig a little deeper to find out what's going on. She may be experiencing tremendous sadness, upset, or guilt over your daughter's diagnosis and doesn't want to burden you with this. Getting it out in the open can be a good first step in getting through it, though this may not happen in time for your trip.
In that case, see who else in your inner circle is up for the same training and education you offered your mom. Have a friend who is always volunteering to help? Then take her up on it, and consider the silver lining: The more people who know how to care for your child, the stronger your support network becomes. Bon voyage!
--Wynola Wayne, R.N., B.S.N., C.D.E., is a diabetes nurse clinician/educator in the division of diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolism at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
How Other Parents Deal
"On our first weekend 'away,' my husband and I checked into the fanciest hotel in our hometown. It was exactly two miles away from our house. My mom felt completely at ease with our daughter, and I think it made us feel much better too."
--Maria, mom of Ava
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.
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