Recently, your grandchild has developed diabetes. Because you are very important in the care and development of your grandchild, we have put together some information especially for you.
Types of Diabetes
There are primarily two types of diabetes- type I and type 2.
In people with type I diabetes, the pancreas does not make insulin and insulin injections are required on a daily basis. In people with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas either does not make enough insulin or the insulin that is made does not work well enough. This type of diabetes can most often be controlled by diet and exercise.
Nothing that anyone did caused your grandchild's diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an inherited factor in the genes that made the child prone to developing diabetes. Other "trigger" factors such as viral illness and a self-allergy response (in which the body attacks its own cells in the pancreas) must also be present. Nothing could have been done to prevent this from happening. Type 2 diabetes is largely inherited but can occur at an earlier age depending on the diet and the exercise regimen.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is caused when the body is not able to make insulin or the body is not able to respond to the insulin that is made as it should. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin allows the sugar from the foods we eat to enter the cells of the body. Sugar is the primary source of energy for the cells. In a child with type I diabetes, the cells cannot get the sugar because of the lack of insulin. The body then turns to fat for its energy. Along with the breakdown of fat, there is often weight loss, fatigue, weakness, increased thirst and increased urination. You may have noticed these symptoms when your grandchild was diagnosed. Now that he/she has been started on insulin, these symptoms will disappear and he/she will be as active as before.
What is involved in the care of your grandchild?
Your grandchild will have to test his/her blood sugar 4 or more times a day using a blood glucose meter and record the results in a log book. Insulin will be given four or more times a day. The only way to give insulin at the initial diagnosis is by injection. Because the insulin is given into the fat tissue instead of the muscle, children usually tell us it doesn't hurt. As children reach the ages of 8-12, they gradually learn to do the testing and injections by themselves. Even though they are doing it themselves, they need to continue to be supervised. It is not uncommon for them to not want to do it on occasion, in which case the adults will again take the responsibility. Your son or daughter will teach you how to do the testing and injections. They will also teach you about low blood sugar reactions and what to do if one occurs.
Another important part of your grandchild's care is the meal plan. It is easier for the child if everyone is eating the same thing. Your grandchild will have three meals and possibly some snacks each day. It is important to count the number of carbohydrates eaten at meal and snack times so that the appropriate amount of insulin can be given. Your son or daughter will share the meal plan with you.
Quite often, grandparents like to reward their grandchildren with special treats, like food. Remember that a special treat can always be in the form of trips to the park, tossing a ball, or playing games. If you want to give your grandchild cake or ice cream, just ask Mom or Dad how much he/she can have and try to have it during a planned meal/ snack time.
Your grandchild needs your love and support as he/she adjusts to having diabetes. Children with diabetes can continue to be active with their friends and involved in sports or other activities just as they were before their diagnosis.
We try very hard to be as flexible as possible with children, while helping them maintain good blood sugars. If the above suggestions are followed, we believe your grandchild will grow up to be a healthy, active and happy adult!