Living On Your Own with Diabetes: How to Prepare

Posted by kelly on Fri, 11/07/2014 - 15:35 in

Kelly Kunik, Editrix/Siren of Diabetesaliciousness, discusses tips for people with diabetes preparing to live on their own for the first time. You can follow Kelly on Twitter @diabetesalish. 

I’m not a parent, but from what I’ve been told, your job as a parent is to protect your child/children and raise them to be caring, empathetic and responsible individuals who, when the time comes, will not only be able to fly on their own, but soar to the greatest of heights.

I know that many parents of young adults (and not so young for that matter) with diabetes worry about their children living alone. I totally get it, but I also know that if you clip their wings, there’s going to be a lot of resentment and anger directed at the parents - and at diabetes - and that’s not good for anyone.

Living on your own as a PWD (person with diabetes) is totally doable - it just takes some work. It takes work when it comes to managing diabetes on your own, work regarding developing a game plan and work in letting go and allowing yourself to grow and become. I’ve lived on my own for a long time now and I’ve found what really works for me is being prepared in all diabetes dimensions. This is achieved by copious amounts of the following.

Check your blood sugar a lot.

Checking your blood sugar isn’t a test and there are no bad numbers. Personally, I look at glucose checking as locating my blood sugar’s GPS coordinates. These glucose GPS coordinates tell me where my blood sugar is currently and what direction I need to go. Checking (and of course correcting) your blood sugar often (and sometimes in the middle of the night, if needed) is a key factor in living on your own with diabetes

For the record: If you wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), you still need to check your blood sugar. I don’t have a CGM yet (I’m working on it), but I know some people have issues with hearing their CGM in the middle of the night. My CDE suggested putting the CGM in a glass at a recent Pump Support Meeting I attended, which I’d heard previously, from a very reliable source/friend. How cool is that?

Always make sure you’re well-stocked.

ALWAYS make sure you have food, insulin, insulin pump/testing supplies in your house/apartment. It’s not rocket science folks. We need insulin, food and diabetes supplies to live so make sure you have plenty on hand.

  • Medical Supplies
    Make sure your insulin, test strip, oral medication and pump supply prescriptions are not only up to date, but actually filled.
  • Food
    I don’t LOVE food shopping, but I love and need to eat, so I go food shopping. Once a month I stock up on the basics. In the winter months I stop at a local market once a week for fruits and veggies. In the spring, summer and fall months, I hit my local farmers market weekly for fresh fruits and veggies.

And I always keep a few two-liter bottles of ginger ale and a box of saltines in my pantry at all times… just in case I get “real people sick.

Speaking of lows, be prepared for nighttime lows before they happen.

I keep a spare glucose meter, test strips, juice boxes and a jar of glucose tabs on my nightstand at all times. If I have a low in the middle of the night, I don’t want to stumble around looking for my meter and trying to find food. I want to be able to check my blood sugar, treat and make sure it’s going in the right direction ASAP so I can get back to sleep. I also keep my cell phone charging on my nightstand for several reasons:

One, it’s my alarm clock. Two, if I ever need to call 9-1-1 in the middle of the night for any reason, it’s right there and good to go.

Sidebar: Pre-juice box days I always kept a couple of mini four-ounce cans of ginger ale on my night stand...just in case.

Diabetes supplies on the run.

I make sure to ALWAYS have glucose tabs and some kind of nutrition bar on my person, in my handbag and in my car to treat lows. Make sure you always have a bag of diabetes supplies ready to go. It doesn’t have to be a big bag, but a weather-proof bag is key and it should be large enough to hold a week’s worth of pump supplies, oral meds, spare pump batteries and glucose tabs. I also keep a flashlight cell phone charger in said bag.

Look, you never know if something unexpected will happen (like a gas leak, flood or a power outage) and you don’t want to be scrambling for diabetes supplies when you you’re forced to vacate. If you have a bag already packed, you just need to grab some insulin from the fridge, your toothbrush and some clothes and then shove them into said bag and you’re good to go. I keep my bag in the hallway closet - it’s out of the way and easily accessible at the same time.

For the record: I’ve used my emergency diabetes bag twice. Once during Hurricane Sandy (except I loaded ALL my diabetes supplies into one suitcase) and once during a power outage just as a nor’easter was approaching the coast. As soon as the power went out, my friends from around the corner called and invited me to stay over their house. I literally grabbed my diabetes bag, two bottles of insulin from the fridge, my computer, copious amounts of clean socks and underwear, and my PJs. Then I put on my raincoat and rain boots on and I drove to their house - and all in under 15 minutes.

Keep in touch with the people who love you.

When I first moved out on my own, my parents drove me crazy with all the phone calls and questions regarding my diabetes. Finally, we agreed that I’d check in with them daily via a phone call. Sometimes I’d call in the morning, sometimes in the evening, but to keep them from thinking the worst and bugging the crap out of me, I always called.

As I adjusted to living on my own, my check-in calls weren’t always daily, sometimes they were every other day, but I never let more than 48 hours go by. Here’s the thing: As I grew older, so did my parents. Those daily “check-in” calls were no longer for their peace of mind, but for mine. You think dealing with a 20-something who knows EVERYTHING is hard, try telling a parent who’s well into their golden years that they had you worried sick because they never called to check in after they landed in Vegas. They will literally laugh in your face!  But I digress. With the advent of texting, you can check in with those you love in as little as 10 characters with a simple “I’m fine.” Or, if you really don’t feel like dealing, you can text them an emoticon and be done with it.

Seriously though, CALL YOUR MOTHER.

Bottom Line

Diabetes and living on your own is more than a possibility, it’s a reality for millions who have been living successfully on their own with diabetes for years.