Going off to college is an exciting time! There are tons of new friends and experiences awaiting you at your new school. Moving away from home means a new sense of responsibility and independence, especially when it comes to managing your diabetes. These will be the best years of your life, and they can be even better if you maintain good control of your condition! Here are some tips to make managing college life and diabetes management a breeze!
Create a Handbook/ Binder that includes:
-- Emergency contact information (parent/guardian, doctor, caregiver)
-- Pharmacy # and prescription information-- Information about "How To":
- Treat lows/highs
- Give an insulin injection
- Use glucose gel
- Give an glucagon injection
-- General information about your daily routine; pump settings, insulin ratios, etc.
Keeping an organized binder of all information regarding your diabetes management can help both you and those around you. In an emergency, a roommate could use this information to help treat you correctly and call for help if necessary. This can also be important if, for example, your pump breaks; you will have all of the information you need to continue managing your routine without too much trouble, and without having to wait on a call back from your doctor with all of your regimens.
Sign up with your school's Disability Services
Many colleges have Disability Services that provide a lot of help for Type 1 Diabetics. By registering with them you can ensure that, in the event of a diabetes-related emergency, you will be able to make up work if you miss a class/test, and be given fair treatment, because we all know diabetes isn't always a convenient disease. Many college Disability Services centers even offer special treatment like allowing you to register early or get a special parking pass!
Speak with your Professors
Once you register with the Disability Services at your school, you will likely be required to have a form signed by each of your professors. Regardless, it is always good to introduce yourself on the first day so they know exactly who you are. Tell them a little about your diabetes, how you manage yourself, if you have any devices that may go off during class and sound much like a cell phone, and if you need their help in any way with class time care. Use this time to assure your professor that you should be fine during class, but that sometimes weird situations come up with diabetes; and maybe you can even bust some myths about Type 1! This effort also builds a good relationship with your professors -- always a good thing to have in college for academic assistance and future references!
Talk to your Roommates/Resident Assistant
While you don't have to tell everyone you meet that you live with Type 1 diabetes, it is very important to let the people who are around you most know what is going on. Your roommate(s) should absolutely know about your condition, including how to care for you in an emergency, what symptoms you usually exhibit during a low or high, and who to call if they are unsure or uncomfortable caring for you. It is also good to let other close by friends and peers know, in the event that you need their help. If you are one of those Type 1s like me, who tell just about anyone who will listen about diabetes, branch out and offer to give an informational "class" on your dorm hall or in one of your classes! The more people you inform, the easier it is to have support and help around when you need it most!
Organize your Diabetes Supplies
You will find very quickly that organization and time management are key in successfully getting through college. This is also true of managing your diabetes. Make sure you have a place to keep all of your supplies together so it is easier to do inventory of what you have, what you need, and are able to locate things without much effort. I used a plastic drawer set, labeled with what was in each. I tried to keep everything in a general category, such as "pump supplies" in one drawer; extra meters, strips, etc. in another drawer, and "emergency supplies" like glucagon and gel in another. This can also make it easy for a roommate to get something for you if you are unable to do so yourself!
It is also especially important to always have a back-up plan! If you are a pumper, make sure to have some syringes or insulin pens on hand in the event that your pump breaks or fails!
Wear a Medical ID
The Medical ID is something that you've probably been told many times to wear and you may or may not follow that advice. But, going off to college is the time to invest in one no matter what! There are SO many different styles of medical IDs, anyone can find something that they like, Please know that it is so important to have one -- and wear it! It could save your life if you end up in a situation where you aren't around someone who knows exactly what to do!
Carry Extra Supplies
As well all know diabetes tends to rear its ugly head at the worst time possible. In order to prevent getting stuck in a situation where you have nothing to treat a low or your pump site falls out, bring extra supplies with you in your car or a bag. It may not seem like a big deal to wait an hour or so before taking your insulin or replacing a pump site, but you will regret it when you start to feel icky! This is just another small piece of advice that has a big impact on keeping yourself in control, healthy, and able to enjoy the fun times in college!
Find a Local Pharmacy for Emergency Prescriptions
This can save you in an emergency when you need more insulin in a hurry. If you are too far to go home, or can't have a parent come to you relatively quickly, this is a must! Bringing prescriptions with you is always a good idea because it is also proof that you are medically required to have the various supplies in your dorm room or apartment, and especially important when traveling!
Prepare to Be Your Own Pancreas!
Going off to college is both exciting and scary! This is the time when your parents are no longer right beside you at all times to fix a problem, and you should aim to become a responsible, independent diabetic! Talk with your parent/guardian about how to order your supplies, who to call for emergency help, and when to order your supplies so that you don't end up running out before a shipment comes in. It may seem overwhelming at first but it's something you will have to do eventually, and it's always better to get a head start!
Though it can be difficult at times, Diabetes should not stop you from missing out on any college experience! Use your these years to branch out and challenge yourself, especially in the face of this condition we have to battle every day! Find out if there are other Type 1 students on your campus and make a support group! It is always good to have others around that know what you're going through and can help make it a little easier! As long as you stay on top of your diabetes management, and school work, of course, college will be an exciting and amazing experience!