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Balancing work and life with a child living with T1D during COVID-19

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April Blackwell

There is nothing easy about living, working, parenting and managing your child's type 1 diabetes (T1D) through a pandemic. We are all navigating this new reality together, one day at a time.

As a working mom — now mostly working from home — I can commiserate with those who are balancing work and parenting at the same time, but adding in diabetes management on top of everything is a new challenge! Among my friends with children living with T1D, we've identified a buzzword that has been helping all of us cope with daily management needs. It's "CGM," which stands for "continuous glucose monitor."

Daily CGM use provides users incredibly valuable insight without being cumbersome. Instead of constantly nagging your child with T1D to see if they've checked their blood sugar, you can now monitor their glucose levels discreetly. This method doesn't require fingersticks and provides insightful updates every five minutes or so.

In the current environment, where we are all cooped up together all the time, any sliver of relationship stability is appreciated! Here are a few strategies for balancing your work life, personal life and management of your child's T1D without breaking a sweat.

Exploit CGM technology for peace of mind

If you are not familiar with CGM technology, the basic idea is a combination system of a sensor/transmitter and receiver. Each brand is slightly different, but in general, the person with T1D places a small sensor on their body that sends glucose readings to a receiver.

The data transfer may be done automatically at set time intervals (assuming the receiver is in range) or manually by swiping the receiver over the sensor/transmitter periodically. The latest pandemic pro-tip is to set up meaningful high and low blood sugar alarms. For instance, if you want to be alerted before low blood sugar becomes a serious issue, consider setting the low blood sugar threshold to 90 mg/dL or experimenting with the trend alert setting. This will give you a chance to hear the low alarm, get to a stopping point in your work and gather a snack to treat the low.

Similarly, you may want to consider lowering the high blood sugar alarm threshold from your usual high blood sugar limit. I have my own CGM high threshold set to 140 mg/dL in order to make corrections before the high blood sugar really ramps up. The technology has user-settable limits in order to provide an experience that works best for your application, so don't be afraid to use it to its full potential!

Wear it and share it

Each CGM system includes an option to share the data it collects with friends, family, care team members and others. As you can't always be right next to your child living with T1D, it's a good idea to set up the sharing apps to have the real-time data streamed on your mobile device!

This way, you and your spouse can trade off watching the kids and working but always be in-the-know. Or perhaps your children are participating in virtual classroom sessions on their own — these sharing apps include the option to distribute data to several "receivers" so you never have to wonder if your child's T1D is under control.

Review summary reports

Data is power! Scheduling just 10 minutes per week to review your child's CGM summary reports can save you from a great deal of frustration during the busier parts of the week. Tweaking basal rates or carbohydrate ratios is never an absolute silver bullet against blood sugar excursions, but bringing consistent high or low trends into range will certainly help mitigate negative blood sugar responses to pesky problem meals or activities.

Set reminders for reordering supplies

I like to use my work calendar as a central hub for tracking our family's engagements, including reminders to reorder diabetes supplies. I find this helps me feel like I'm on top of everything — and you might find the same. Or, better yet, try using the ContinuCare service to make the process of reordering and keeping track of supplies even more streamlined!

The reality of living through COVID-19 is, to employ a recently overused phrase, "unprecedented." I'm only four years into this parenting gig and I'm quickly finding out the responsibilities feel like they just keep piling on. Using technology — specifically CGM technology — to put at least part of those responsibilities on autopilot is efficiency at its finest.

Looking to purchase your child's CGM device and related supplies online? Visit the Edgepark website to browse the selection of medical equipment that can be shipped directly to your family's home.

April Blackwell

April Blackwell is an aerospace engineer who works as an Attitude Determination and Control Officer in the International Space Station mission control center. She has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for over 20 years and is a passionate advocate with the hope to inspire everyone to reach for their dreams regardless of medical status.

Social Media links: https://www.instagram.com/nerdyapril/ https://www.facebook.com/nerdyapril

Diabetes Management Tip