Now That You’re A Responsible Young Adult

Friday, March 11, 2022 - 09:49

The transition from your youth years into becoming a young adult is a major milestone. If you’re living with type 1 diabetes, significant events like moving out of home, navigating social (and romantic) relationships, entering university or college, or starting your first full-time job, can often pose a challenge to optimal blood glucose (BG) management.1 During this time of your life, dealing with insulin and carbohydrate counting may be the last thing on your mind.

 

The Weight Of Responsibility

The definition of a “young adult” falls somewhere between 18 years old and 30,2 which spans a wide range of life experiences and competencies. At this age, many people living with type 1 diabetes are expected to take over the reins of their diabetes management,2 whether they really feel ready or not.1 

Multiple studies have noted a gap in the care of people living with type 1 diabetes somewhere between adolescence and adulthood.1,2 One study found that over a quarter of young adults experienced an interruption to their healthcare of more than 6 months when transitioning from paediatric care into adult healthcare services.2 This phenomenon, alongside other competing interests (such as working towards your driving licence), may be partly to blame for poorer health outcomes during this vulnerable stage of life.1,2

Compared to teenagers, young adults living with type 1 diabetes often experience more emotional concerns and a greater degree of diabetes distress.1 When comparing to people of the same age group without diabetes, there is evidence that young adults living with type 1 diabetes face more challenges with social participation, unemployment,2 and depression.1

While this article can’t sit your driving test for you, here are some suggestions to make this period of life a little easier when you’re living with type 1 diabetes.

 

4 Tips For Managing Your Newfound Independence

1. Know your rights at work.

In many countries, it’s illegal for your employer or prospective employer to ask about your health unless it directly impacts your job. However, it is often a legal requirement for your workplace to ensure your work environment is safe for you and to accommodate any reasonable requests to look after your health.3 This may mean asking to have regular short breaks to check your BG levels or being allowed to snack as needed.

2. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support.

Although a lot more autonomy and independence may be expected of you at this time, if you need extra help, there’s absolutely no shame in reaching out. As young adults living with type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk of depression compared to teenagers without type 1 diabetes,1 it’s important to pay attention to your emotional health. Your diabetes healthcare team may be able to direct you to helpful resources or alternatively, you may want to search for a local support group online. It may also be worth speaking to your family about a more gradual transition into independence, such as asking your parents to gently remind you check your insulin supplies or to make an optometrist appointment.

3. Schedule your healthcare appointments (and stick to them).

Lower rates of attendance to healthcare appointments are often found in young adult groups.2 Understandably, there are many other things clamouring for your attention during this life stage, whether it be applying for university or trying to find a flat within your budget. However, missing visits with your diabetes healthcare team can have costly short- and long-term consequences. Where possible, try to schedule these appointments with priority and work the rest of your calendar around them. From your head to your toes, your body will thank you for it! (Especially when you reach your 40s and are no longer young and limber).

4. Leverage technology to help you live your best life.

Diabetes technology has come a long way. Speak to your diabetes healthcare team about what may be available and accessible in your country. For example, instead of multiple daily finger pricks, why not give continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) a try? Instead of keeping awake at night in fear of a hypoglycaemic episode, why not try an insulin pump with an automatic “suspend before low” feature? Many people living with type 1 diabetes cite CGM as a complete life-changer, offering a freedom and peace of mind they hadn’t experienced before. Used alongside certain pumps, CGM technology can support improved diabetes management and protect you from both high and low BG levels. Your healthcare team will be the ones to talk to about how you can get the most out of the available technology to make your life easier.

 

Final Thoughts

Young adulthood is an exciting time, full of exhilarating independence. However, with increased independence and freedom comes the paradox of increased responsibility. Don’t let this life stage be the downfall of your diabetes management – you still have several more decades to go!

 

References

1. Gutierrez-Colin A, Corathers S, Beal S, Baugh H, Nause K, Kichler J. Young Adults With Type 1 Diabetes Preparing to Transition to Adult Care: Psychosocial Functioning and Associations With Self-Management and Health Outcomes. Diabetes Spectrum. 2020;33(3):255-263.

2. Bronner M, Peeters, M, Sattoe J, et al. The impact of type 1 diabetes on young adults’ health-related quality of life. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2020; 18:137.

3. JDRF. Work: to tell or not to tell? https://jdrf.org.uk/. 2021. Available at: https://jdrf.org.uk/information-support/living-with-type-1-diabetes/everyday-life/work/. (Accessed January 2022).