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Managing Young Adults at College and Living on Their Own

Helping them manage their type 1 diabetes

Thinking about the time when your young adult goes off to college or moves out on his or her own can be stressful for both of you. But there are things you and your young adult can do to prepare ahead of time and make that transition easier.

Before your young adult becomes independent, you may want to have them practice doing the following things:

  • Filling prescriptions and ordering supplies before they run out
  • Checking insulin and taking medicine on their own
  • Having supplies on hand to manage low blood sugar reactions
  • Paying for medicine and supplies or arranging for payment to be made
  • Adjusting their insulin based on their eating, activity, and blood sugar levels
  • Making appointments with their diabetes care team
  • Asking their diabetes care team questions and expressing any concerns they have about their care
  • Telling their diabetes care team how they have been feeling

Whether your young adult is going to college or is moving into an apartment, it's a good idea to make a diabetes kit that will keep all of their supplies in one spot. The kit should include their monitor and strips, insulin, syringes, and pump supplies or extra pens. It should also have a sharps container, prescriptions for insulin or supplies, and whatever source of sugar your young adult likes to treat low blood sugar events.

If they aren't wearing one already, this may be the time to encourage your young adult to start wearing a Medic Alert ID. If they're uncomfortable with the idea, remind them that if they ever pass out because of a low blood sugar event, wearing the ID could save their life. And as your young adult has their last appointment with their current care team, have them take a supply of business cards to share with their new care team. This can help make the transition in care more seamless.

If your young adult is headed to college, here are some tips to help him or her with those first few weeks. Encourage him or her to:

  • Decide whom to tell about their diabetes, and what to tell them
  • Visit the student health center and find out how to get help at night, on the weekend, and in case of an emergency
  • Go to the cafeteria or other places on campus where food is served and get nutrition information. Your young adult may decide to stock their room with food they know they can eat
  • Prepare a sick-day kit for their dorm room. This kit should include the guidelines their care team gave them for adjusting their insulin as well as ketone strips, a thermometer, and bland foods and drinks

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