Your Child’s Diabetes Health Team
A diabetes diagnosis for your child can mean big lifestyle changes for your family. Managing his health may seem overwhelming at times, but you have a strong support system in his health team. Remember that although you are a team, you and your child are the head of his health care team. Everything his team does centers around managing his diabetes. Your child’s health team is there to help you—they are the experts—but you and your child ultimately make the decisions.
Curious about the various roles and positions of the team? Depending on the difficulty of the situation and your own desires, your child’s health team may consist mostly of your pediatrician, or you may need a few other players.
A pediatric endocrinologist specializes in diseases of the endocrine system, such as diabetes. Visiting a pediatric endocrinologist does not remove the need for your child to see her regular pediatrician. You may choose to take your child to a pediatrician, a primary care doctor, a pediatric endocrinologist, or all three. These doctors will monitor your child’s blood-glucose levels and make adjustments to the prescribed insulin as needed. They can also create management plans and refer you to various specialists whenever necessary. It is the doctor’s job to watch for complications and make sure your child is in the best physical health possible. As the doctor will be responsible for so many decisions, it is important to find a doctor you feel comfortable with.
You may also choose to meet with a CDE, or Certified Diabetes Educator. CDEs are professionals with specialized training in educating children and parents. A CDE may be a doctor, nurse, social worker, pharmacist, or dietician.. You can probably guess exactly what a CDE’s job is: to educate you and your child on everything related to diabetes—how to test blood-glucose levels, how to administer insulin, how to manage the disease, etc.
Another professional you may want on your team is a dietitian. A dietitian knows the best diet to benefit your child—and knows how that diet will change and grow with your child. A dietician will make adjustments to a diet plan based on your child’s activities (like involvement in sports) or special events (like holidays where some sort of “treat” is expected). A dietitian can also help you make wise decisions in buying and preparing food. The labels don’t always tell you what you need to know, and a dietitian can help you fill in the gaps.
The final team member you may be interested in recruiting is a professional to help manage mental health. This may be a social worker or psychologist, but could also be a counselor or psychiatrist. A mental health specialist has a lot to contribute to your health team. Maybe this increased attention to your child is causing a sibling to feel overlooked. Maybe your child struggles to follow his new routine and doesn’t want to worry about diet and insulin shots, or simply wants to be just like his friends at school. Maybe you’re struggling with misplaced guilt—you blame yourself when your child’s health suffers, you wish you could do more to help, etc. A mental health specialist can assist with all these problems and more.
Whoever you choose to enlist for your child’s diabetes health team, be sure you feel comfortable with them, that everyone is on the same page, and that your child’s individual needs are priority.