I have had several people contact me to tell me about a friend or relative that was just diagnosed. They almost always ask the best way they can help. I usually have three suggestions.
When we were diagnosed, we had so many visitors come up to see us. We were forever asking the staff for more chairs and, even then, there were many times when it was standing room only in Luke’s little tiny hospital room.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and pastors drove up to visit throughout the days we spent in the PICU. They kept us company, talked to us & kept our mind off of things when they were scary, made sure we had everything we needed, gave us- as parents- breaks and allowed us to eat a quick meal downstairs or grab a shower.
We also had another T1 family come to visit us in the hospital. We were so appreciative that they took time out of their crazy busy schedule to come and sit with us, talk with us. We compared stories of diagnosis. We laughed when their DAD (diabetic alert dog) got confused with their daughter’s lows and Luke’s highs. And prayed together as they left our room for the night.
The number one way I tell people they can help is to be there for the family. Check in with them. See if they want/need company or if they need anything specific- someone to stay with their child as they run to the Ronald McDonald Room to take a quick shower at the hospital or, if they’re home already, grab a quick nap. Maybe they’d like a McDonald’s Diet Coke or someone to make a Starbucks run for them. But mostly they need to be reminded that they aren’t alone.
Bring them a meal.
If you opt to bring them a meal, which is another awesome way to help out, be sure to include carb counts for the food. Being newly diagnosed with Type 1 is very overwhelming, especially with trying to figure out the carb count of a homemade meal. You don’t necessarily have to bring a low carb meal to them. Just include the number of carbs in each serving (and the number of servings helps, too). Also keep in mind that just because it’s sugar free doesn’t mean it’s carb free. Sometimes sugar free foods actually have more carbs in them. But whatever you choose to bring them will be a welcome site & one less thing they need to worry about when they’re figuring out their new normal.
Bring them a care package.
You could also bring the newly diagnosed patient &/or family a care package when you visit. When Luke was in the hospital, he had friends and family bring balloons, stuffed animals, Pokemon cards, things to do while in the hospital like coloring books, drawing pads, card games like Uno, Sushi Go, & Hanabi… all of which brought a HUGE smile to his face!
Our friends who have a T1 of their own brought a bag full of T1 supplies. This was extremely helpful to us, as new T1 parents. As part of our diabetes education classes while Luke was in the hospital, we were told what were some helpful things to have on hand at home. However, having this care package ready to go for us when we went home saved us a lot of time after Luke was discharged and allowed us to get home sooner.
Below are some things that could be included in this type of care package…
Alcohol Prep Pads
Alcohol pads are what Luke used before each shot before he was on the pump. Now he stashes a stack of them in his back for finger pricks.
4 oz Juice Boxes
A fast way to correct a low is with juice. Juice boxes that are about 4 oz have the recommended 15g of carbs needed for lows. They are a little tricky to find, but I’ve had success at our local Walmart.
Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers
Peanut butter sandwich crackers are a great snack because they include carbs and protein to help stabilize the carbs. These little Austin-brand 4-packs are perfect because they are 15g of carbs. I find these at our local grocery store, Meijer.
Slim Jims are considered a “zero carb” or “free” snack. These were a great option for Luke when he was hungry but it was too soon to get another shot of insulin for carbs.
A Reuseable Water Bottle
Having a reuseable water bottle is handy when someone with Type 1 is dealing with a stubborn high blood sugar. Drinking water helps to bring the sugar down.
Smarties are frequently used to help bring blood sugar back up to a normal range. Because of it’s powdery texture, they are quickly absorbed into the blood stream. Other options would be Pixy Stix and SweeTarts.
Individual Packages of Nuts
Another great “free” snack are these individual packages of nuts. There are many different kinds, but the free ones are the ones that are 7-8g carbs in each bag. (Before buying these or the peanut butter crackers, be sure the T1 doesn’t have a nut allergy!)
Powdered Drink Packets
These drink packets are great alternatives to drinking water. They’re tasty, yet sugar-free. There are many different brands and flavors you can choose from.
One thing I wish I would have thought to have on hand while at the hospital was a journal. From the first doctor’s appointment to hospital discharge was such a whirlwind, I don’t remember all of the details exactly. I’m thankful for Facebook, which I used as a mini-journal. But it would have been nice to jot down not only the details, but my feelings and emotions, as well. I also wonder if Luke would have benefited from journaling his thoughts and feelings, as well. The journal above is from Erin Condren; however, any journal would do.
There are many things you could also include in the care package- including the games, coloring books and stuffed animals I mentioned above. I’m hoping this is helpful to anyone who wants to help when a friend or family member is newly diagnosed, but isn’t sure how. Feel free to drop your suggestions in the comments!