I don’t remember a lot of the details of that week way back when my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. The lead up – that early feeling of worry that something was not quite right; the long drive to the pedi office with her looking pale in the back seat; 2:35 p.m., the moment the pedi told me what was up; the rush to the big city hospital.
The rest of the week is a blur of lessons and doctors and mastering shots and trying to get my head around it all.
Except for one vivid memory: my friend showing up on day four and telling me, with no hesitation, she was there for me. She pulled her supplies out of her bag and proceeded to wash and blow dry my hair and then French braid it.
I cannot explain to you how absolutely amazing that gesture was. Because somehow my good friend understood something that I had yet to grasp: I had to be taken care of too. As the mother of a child with diabetes, one tends to put oneself last. And how can you not? Your child, after all, is struggling and suffering and adapting and adjusting, not just that first week, but forever.
Mom instinct (and Dad instinct, please understand I mean both when I say mom . . . it’s just easier!) kicks in and we focus all on out child’s needs. And in there, somewhere, we can get a little lost.
My friend knew exactly what I needed that day at the hospital – a pick me up that just made me feel normal for a little while. I remember after she left noticing how her simple act had recharged me. I faced the next days of learning with a new spirit. (And then that scary first day home. I remember actually saying to the doctors, ‘No, really: we’re fine here. Lauren likes the activity room and I’m getting used to sleeping on this chair thingy. We’ll just live here with all of you.” Alas, they did send us home).
Which gets me to thinking today, those of us caring for a person with diabetes need some love too. Oh, we’re never going to admit it, much less ask for it. So I’ve decided to compile some suggestions for friends and loved ones of a diabetes caretaker to consider. Maybe those of us who do care for someone with D can kind of quietly pass this along to those who might want to help us out.
So if you have a friend or loved one in the trenches of diabetes care (particularly if it’s a newbie but even if it’s someone who’s been at it a long time), consider some of these.
*Cook a meal for the family and send it along with the nutritional breakdown on a card. This means the family can enjoy a lovey dinner without cooking and not stress over the carb count for the insulin bolus. Plus, it just plain makes us feel good that you understand we need to know that stuff. If you really want to knock it out of the ballpark, bring it over pre-measured into portions with the carb count for each portion. That’s like gold.
*Read a book that teaches you about Type 1 and don’t mention it until you are done. Really learning what this is all about (even if it’s been years) means so much to us all. (Shameless plug: My book is “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Juvenile Diabetes” and is available in all book stores and on all sites such as amazon – I think it’s cheapest on Amazon. But don’t feel you need to get that one – just make sure it’s a book on Type 1.) Once you are done write the D mom and/or Dad a note about what you’ve learned and what you now understand from your reading.
*Offer to go over their house for a “basal check night slumber party.” You know, D moms and dads have a LOT of nights they have to stay up late and wake up a few times a night. Why not make it a party? Offer to come over in your PJ’s with snacks, DVD’s and games and make at least one night of checking somewhat fun. You’ll keep them company, make them feel not alone and gain a new respect for what life is like with Diabetes along.
*Get trained in glucagons, shots, pumps, corrections, whatever is needed for you friend’s loved one to be over your house or out with you in a completely safe way. Particularly with young kids, we parents worry. Taking the time to have the skills needed for a child with diabetes to hang out with you is a remarkable gift to any caregiver.
*Quietly start fundraising for the walk or the ride or whatever event your friend might be supportive of. Then, show your support in a public way and show your friend that you want a cure as much as anyone does. You know, if you can get a few friends to donate a few bucks each . . . you’re really going to make an impact.
*Just listen. Don’t judge. It’s a long, hard road here in D-world and sometimes we get whiny. And cranky. And defeated. And just plain pissed off. Most times all we need is a good friend who will just let us vent. Make up some “Venting for free” coupons and give them to your caretaker friend. Let them know they can be used 24/7 whenever needed. Opening the line of communication in a non-judgmental way is a fantastic gift (because you have no idea how much judging we hear on a daily basis).
Anyone else have ideas out there? Please share them in the comment section below. And D parents: when you are offered such things: accept! You need support through all this too.