Parents of students headed off to college have to navigate the waters of separation. That job only intensifies when their children have diabetes. Mary Burke-Roth, RN, an oncology nurse, knows this all too well—she went through it when she moved her daughter, Christina Roth, to the University of Massachusetts–Amherst six years ago. “It was difficult,” Burke-Roth recalls. “I’m a nurse and it was still difficult. Luckily, she was very independent so she kind of helped prepare me.”Getting a young adult with diabetes ready for college is a process for both parents and students. Here are some tips to make that move easier.
Start the Transition Early – It’s important to talk before students leave the nest about issues that might arise at school. Christina Roth, who is now CEO and founder of the College Diabetes Network, a nonprofit organization supporting college students with diabetes and their parents, says laying the groundwork ahead of time can make taking the step toward college easier. “Start fostering independence,” she says. Encourage your young adult child to talk about unfamiliar situations he or she may face, such as new schedules, foods, exposure to alcohol, and late nights. Besides carrying glucose to treat lows, students need to check blood glucose frequently to see how they react to such changes.
Prepare for Campus Life – Most college students are 18 or older—so they’re legally adults and must make legal decisions about their health themselves, unless they sign forms saying their parents can still be involved in their health care decisions. But that doesn’t mean they have to manage health without support. Crystal Jackson, director of the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School® program (and mother of a recent college grad with diabetes), says it’s important for students and parents to know their rights before classes start. Students will want to meet with disability services staff to explain their needs in the classroom, dormitory, and dining hall. A504 plan (a legal document that ensures students with diabetes have the same access to education as other students) and/or letters of accommodation can be used in college. Educating residence advisors about diabetes (and making sure students can have a small refrigerator to keep insulin cold and snacks nearby) is another step students can take with parents’ encouragement.
Jackson says it’s important for parents to remember that they’ve raised their children to be ready for life away from home—whether or not they have diabetes. Parents need to feel confident that they’ve prepared their children to meet their own needs, stay healthy, and follow their diabetes care regimen, she says. And if parents still feel the need to be involved in diabetes care, Jackson suggests volunteering with local ADA efforts. The place to start is the Association’s Volunteer Center at diabetes.org/volunteer. For complete article go to www.diabetes.org