People in the Know: How Can Friends Help Me?

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Q: Our daughter was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and as the word spreads, everyone -- friends, family, coworkers, neighbors -- wants to know, "How can we help?" I am feeling completely overwhelmed, but short of having them take a diabetes education class with me so they can administer insulin and measure blood sugar, what kind of help can these people provide?

A: If there's one word that most accurately sums up how parents and families often feel during the first weeks after a child's type 1 diabetes diagnosis, "overwhelmed" is probably it. There's so much to learn, so many new faces on your child's healthcare team to get to know and so many emotions to work through. And on top of this, the rest of the world doesn't stop turning. There are siblings to take to school, meals to cook, laundry to keep up with.

Parents of a child who is newly diagnosed tend to be very reluctant when it comes to bringing an outside person into their child's care. This is understandable. However, it doesn't mean you can't accept help. As you remain focused on learning the finer points of type 1 diabetes management, let your friends and relatives step in to take over all the other tasks around the house. Enlist your sister to do school pick-ups for your other children and take your neighbors up on their offer to provide meals for you. If you're feeling too overwhelmed to go about divvying up jobs and arranging who does what, make a master list of the tasks you need help with (from keeping up with the laundry to taking your younger child to the dentist) and assign one person the role of delegating jobs to those in your inner circle who have volunteered to help.

Need someone to listen when you want to vent or cry as you work your way through this trying period? Set up a nightly check-in with a friend or establish a rotating phone schedule of go-to friends and family. On the other hand, feeling inundated with requests for updates and news on your child? Ask a friend to post brief status updates for you on a social networking site -- or hand over your contacts list and have a close friend send out a mass email with updates.

When it comes to your child's actual care, I often recommend parents consider having one trusted friend or family member go through the initial care training with them. Think of it as a guarantee that one additional person out there is capable of caring for your child in case of emergency -- or when you're due for a much-needed break.

--Mary McCarthy RN, CDE, is part of the type 1 diabetes care team at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

See more People in the Know questions and answers >

Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.