Living with and/or caring for a person with type 1 diabetes is demanding, which is why it’s so important to create a diabetes management toolkit that can help you every day.
As someone who cares for a person living with type 1 diabetes, I am well aware that managing this chronic condition can be an everyday challenge. However, with advancements in technology and increasing our knowledge and understanding of this condition, we now feel we have some great tools in our diabetes management toolkit. All of these help us as a family to make the task of managing type 1 diabetes a little more bearable for us and it can for you too!
In this article, we will explore 5 of the essential tools that we have found that make life that little bit easier in our day-to-day management of type 1 diabetes, how the toolkit can help and why it’s important.
Why is Managing Type 1 Diabetes Important?
Managing type 1 diabetes is crucial for maintaining good health and preventing serious complications. And fortunately, there are numerous options available to help individuals with type 1 diabetes manage their health
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes glucose. The pancreas, which produces an essential hormone, insulin which regulates blood sugar levels, is unable to function properly in people with type 1 diabetes.
Without proper management, low blood sugar can push individuals into a diabetic coma (at the extreme end) and high blood sugar levels can damage organs and nerves over time. This can lead to serious complications such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage.
How can a type 1 diabetes management toolkit help?
Implementing a diabetes management toolkit, from technology to lifestyle choices, will help you with managing blood glucose levels. This control is not only important for long-term health but also for making managing life on a day-to-day basis easier.
Here are a few ways a toolkit can help:
Prevent High and Low Blood Sugar Levels
One of the most important aspects of managing type 1 diabetes is keeping blood sugar levels within a healthy range. High and Low blood sugar levels can make you feel very unwell and have a wide range of symptoms. These can vary from disorientation, dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, and thirstiness, to frequent urination. So it’s important to figure out a way that works best for you to keep levels within a healthy range.
Nevertheless, whilst maintaining a healthy blood glucose range may sound like an easy task, I know that it is not! Discounting what we eat, there are over 40 other factors that can affect blood sugar levels. And trying to figure this out when the goalpost is continually shifting is challenging, to say the least. So this is where a robust toolkit can really help you with this enormous task!
Reduces The Risk Of Complications
No one would choose to have type 1 diabetes or the associated risks that go alongside this condition. Therefore implementing a specific toolkit that is suited to your needs will help you to live with type 1 diabetes. It will also reduce the risks of developing long-term complications particularly associated with high blood sugar levels.
Improves Quality Of Life
A solid and specific toolkit designed around you and how you live will drastically improve your ability to live alongside type 1 diabetes. It will also allow you greater freedom, better management, and hopefully feel a little less burden bought on by this condition. It affords us greater flexibility in decision-making along with the confidence to adapt to our ever-changing lives.
What is in our type 1 diabetes management toolkit?
In our type 1 diabetes management toolkit, we have a variety of helpful tools that assist us in navigating and managing type 1 diabetes as best we can. Here I share my top 5 tools that have really made a difference for my daughter and us as a family. They are:
- Using a CGM
- Switching to an Insulin Pump
- Finding a Community
- Exploring what you eat
- Creating a diabetes logbook/journal
1. Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGMs)
A Continuous Glucose Monitor might be a piece of kit you are familiar with since they seem to be mentioned everywhere for both diabetics and non-diabetics! This is a wearable device that tracks glucose levels continuously throughout the day and night. The CGM provides real-time data about changes in blood glucose levels, allowing for adjustments to be made quickly when needed.
Levels are tracked via an app (which there are many to choose from). These apps vary in what they offer, but most allow you to track your blood sugar readings, carbohydrate intake, insulin doses, and more. CGM tracking allows you to stay organised and informed about your day-to-day diabetes management. While also providing valuable insights into trends over time.
The ability to monitor trends and time in range allows you to learn, which is invaluable. You then have the knowledge and confidence to make more informed decisions. As well as make any adjustments you may need to either basal or bolus insulin ratios.
However, with all great tools, there are downsides. There is a financial burden if CGMs are not provided through your diabetes care service. And arguably, CGMs may also create overwhelm or diabetes burnout quicker. This is because you are at the mercy of alarms and continual checking.
Nevertheless, If you are fortunate enough to be able to use a CGM, I would argue that the insights, trends, and ability to catch high and low levels quickly, all far outweigh the overwhelm they can bring. A CGM allows for a continuous visibility you wouldn’t see if you were solely using a finger prick test. This gives you greater choice and control in being able to improve your time in range, quality of life and subsequently long-term health.
2. Using an Insulin Pump
An insulin pump is a wearable, small electronic device that delivers insulin directly into the body. These are either adhered directly to the skin (OmniPod ) or through a tube connected to an infusion site on the skin (TSlim, Medtronics, etc). An insulin pump allows for more precise dosing and can help maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day.
We switched to an insulin pump fairly early on in my daughter’s diagnosis and we haven’t looked back. On the rare occasions we have gone back to Multiple Daily Injections (MDI), it has only reaffirmed how much the pump helps to make the day-to-day management an easier task.
We have found that the pump allows us greater overall control of type 1 diabetes. From intuitive adjustments for basal (or background) insulin; to providing an easier way to correct blood sugar levels by administering more insulin. Or even on occasion stopping all insulin deliveries altogether.
The only disadvantage of an insulin pump again is the financial implications. If insulin pumps are not supported via your healthcare system then unfortunately the burden sits with you. And sadly this is out of reach for so many living with type 1 diabetes.
You also have to make the decision about being comfortable with wearing another device on your body. Which for some is a major drawback. However, there are some great companies out there, like Hid-In, that design brilliant bands and underwear to make wearing a device easier.
3. Finding a Community
This is perhaps the most important tool in the toolbox. Living with any chronic condition is draining not only on the body but the mind as well. Building a community around you and your family, that unquestionably understands, without explanation, goes a huge way in making you feel seen and heard. A supportive community can make all the difference in being able to share some of the burden.
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been living with diabetes for years, connecting with others who understand your experience can help you feel less alone and more empowered to manage your health.
I met and connected with these wonderful ladies on Instagram. In 2022 we met to take part in the Diabetes UK wellness walk
Here are some tips for finding your community with diabetes:
- Groups and individuals online and on social media.– There are many online communities, individuals, and pages, which are dedicated to supporting people living with diabetes. They can offer a space to connect with others, share experiences, and ask questions about managing the condition. Some places to explore and find your community are:
- Local support groups. – Find a local support group in your area. Your hospital or doctor’s surgery can also help you with this. Attending meetings can provide a face-to-face opportunity with other individuals, children, and families who also understand what you’re going through.
- Participate in awareness events – Arranged events or diabetes fundraising is another great way to meet other people in your community. Diabetes UK and JDRF regularly run events all over the UK. They often involve fundraising efforts that go towards research or providing resources for those impacted by the condition.
- Talk to family and friends – If someone close to you has also been diagnosed with diabetes, try connecting with them. This can be a valuable source of support as well as a way to learn from each other’s experiences.
Everyone’s journey is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to managing type 1 diabetes. But building connections within a supportive community or with individuals can provide that extra encouragement and a much-needed sense of shared experience.
4. Exploring what you eat
Possibly one of the most important aspects and one that can have the biggest impact on blood glucose levels is looking at what we eat.
By paying close attention to the food you consume, I truly believe that you can achieve a better and healthier time in range . And part of this is making sure we are getting a really good balance and variety in our food choices. Better overall management will also reduce your risk of complications later.
Here are some benefits of looking at what you eat to better manage type 1 diabetes:
- Improved Blood Sugar Control – When you know exactly what you’re eating and how it affects your blood sugar levels, you can make more informed decisions about what foods work best for you.
- Reduced Risk of Hypoglycemia – Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar drops too low. Monitoring your food intake, insulin ratios and making sure you’re consuming enough carbohydrates, can help prevent hypoglycemia.
- Mindful Eating – Being mindful of portion sizes, following the eatwell guide and choosing nutritious foods that help keep you feeling full longer, will all support your diabetes management
- Lower Risk of Complications – Keeping blood sugar in check by considering what you eat may lower your risk for these complications. It should also make you feel healthier and give you more consistent energy throughout the day
- Increased Energy Levels – Eating a balanced diet full of whole foods; plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources, provides energy throughout the day. It will also help to stabilize blood sugars.
Read More on:
In this article, I share with you the potential impact on health and diabetes management increasing your plant intake can have. Along with 12 easy tips that you can implement!
A round-up of some of my favourite easy, whole food recipes. They include a varied selection of whole foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Plus plenty of healthy plant protein, fibre and fats.
5. Creating a Diabetes logbook or journal
With diabetes comes a lot of measuring. This includes your blood glucose levels, carb counting and food intake, to insulin doses, medication, physical activity and any other relevant data. One really great tool to help you keep track of these measurements is using a diabetes logbook or journal.
A diabetes logbook is essentially a record-keeping tool that can help you track your measurements daily and be used to try and spot any trends. By keeping an accurate record of some or all of these factors, it will enable you to better manage some of the shifts to make informed decisions.
There are many different types of diabetes logbooks and journals available on the market today. Some are paper-based like the handy Food Logs or DiaDiary form Diabitys. While others are digital. We have chosen to record some of this information via an app which also automatically records blood glucose levels and bolus insulin dosing.
In particular, we use our log to track the impact of certain carbohydrates as we know that not all carbs are equal. Carbohydrates tend to behave differently with blood sugar levels depending on their glycaemic index and what they have been eaten with! This has helped us understand bolus strategies (i.e. extending insulin ratios and for how long for foods that are regularly eaten)
Other key measurements that you may want to record:
- Blood Glucose Readings – Record your blood glucose readings at regular intervals throughout the day. Particularly before meals, after meals, before bed etc.
- Medication Doses – Keep track of insulin or other medications you take each day. Include dosage amounts and times taken. This will give you a clearer idea if doses need to be increased or decreased
- Food Intake – Note what you eat and drink daily along with carbohydrate counts. This will help you understand how different foods/meals impact your blood glucose levels.
- Physical Activity – Document any exercise or physical activity you engage in daily. This will help you see how it affects your blood sugar levels
- Symptoms/Feelings – Jot down any recurring symptoms such as dizziness or fatigue. It may indicate high/low blood sugar or how hypo aware you are.
- Notes Section – An area where you can add any other relevant information. This could also be how you are feeling about your diabetes management on that day.
Managing type 1 diabetes can be a challenging task. None of us want this condition and the mental burden it can bring. But as of today there aren’t any cures for type 1 diabetes so it is down to us to work out methods, habits and ways that can really support day to day management and long term health.
With the right tools and resources in our toolkit, we can ease this process and lead a full and healthy life. And I hope that these 5 tools help give you an insight or some inspiration on what tools you may need to build into your own toolkit. Diabetes isn’t a one size fits all, so it crucial that you work out what is best for you!
Also I am not a healthcare proffesional and can only share my experince as a carer to someone living with type 1. But perhaps this article can give you an opening to discuss your toolkit with your healthcare team, so they can support you taking control of your diabetes
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