As mentioned in my last blog, I am fast approaching my 25th anniversary as a Type 1 diabetic.
Having been diagnosed in Sydney at the age of 12, I was immediately subjected to a 2 week boot camp in hospital and an intensive crash course in all the key skills I would need to survive and prosper for the next 80 years (barring any cure, of course). Some of the skills I learned were;
how to monitor and regulate my blood sugar levels
how to treat hypos
how to measure, draw up insulin and inject (I seem to remember endlessly flicking the syringe to get rid of bubbles)
how to count carbohydrate ‘exchanges’ and match to my insulin dose
Though scary and challenging at the time, looking back I am eternally grateful that a 2 week hospital admission ‘was par for the course’ for all new juvenile Type 1 cases. Looking back on my education, was I actually one of the lucky ones? Had I been 18+ at the time of my diagnosis, would I have been afforded the same treatment? Fast forward 25 years, as public health services battle under the strain of budget cuts and staff shortages, what should the ‘Gold Standard’ in care and education be for newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetics of all ages?
For me, the treatment of Type 1 diabetes should center around the following;
Insulin: how to manage insulin usage to fit around the lifestyle I plan to have?
Food: which foods are most suitable to match my choice of insulin and lifestyle ambitions
Exercise: how can exercise drive positive results (both physically and mentally)
Psychological: how to master the emotional challenges of being a diabetic
To support the above requirements, I believe a hospital admission of a minimum 10 days is essential for all newly diagnosed Type 1 cases – irrespective of age. I say this purely because it is my belief that in order for any diabetic to lead a healthy, long term existence free from complications, it is essential that good habits are formed early that may pave the way for long term success. Such habits need to become habitual and second nature and therefore cannot be learned via an outpatient clinic or remotely. Subsequently, it is my view that intensive, hands on training and education is essential to ‘master’ the game.
Today, only 34% of UK diabetics are hitting their treatment targets, so beyond ‘bootcamp’, it is vital that all Type 1 diabetics receive the following outpatient treatment every 6 months as standard;
HBA1c testing (to test long term blood sugar control)
Access to a dietician to analyse diet and discuss any changes or recommendations that may be implemented to improve treatment and empower the patient
Access to a specialist nurse to analyse blood sugar result patterns, dosages and for body checks
Access to a specialist Endocrinologist
Retinopathy screenings (annually) to check for signs of long term eye damage
Sounds expensive, right?
As Type 1 diabetics, we can all win the war and enjoy a long and healthy existence. However in order to achieve this, we need to ‘raise the stakes’ in the way newly diagnosed cases are treated and create a standard, uniformed approach to education and on-boarding that is not age defined.
Not only may an approach such as this enable patients to manage their condition successfully in the long term, but the cost of treatment for complications will reduce. A win / win all round.
Living Loud is set-up by people with diabetes for people with diabetes, we need your support.