What not to say to the parent of a child with Type One diabetes
1) “You sure it is diabetes?â â Type 1 diabetes is not a diagnosis easily mistaken in a child, and I assure you that the parents have already asked this question a thousand times more than you are asking. Diabetes is diagnosed based on blood sugar levels, and is often based on repeated testing, not one random test. So yes, unless the parent is making it up (for some strange reason) this is the diagnosis.
2)âMaybe you didnât breastfeed long enough/fed formula too early.â â Seriously, you want to put blame on the mother/parent for CAUSING Type 1 diabetes by choice of feeding pattern? Not only is this incorrect (completely), but very insensitive. Please hear this out now: there is NOTHING a parent does to cause Type 1 diabetes in a child, nothing.
3)âI could never give injections to my childâ or “I could never prick my childâs finger.â â What, you think those parents enjoy doing this? They do this to keep their children healthy and many go through their own struggles in overcoming concerns with it, so your tossing out that sentence is not helping one bit. We never know how we will respond to a situation until we ourselves are in it, and for parents loving their children, once they understand that these are critically necessary steps to keeping their child healthy, they do them. Many parents would literally throw themselves under a bus to save their childâs life, and injections and pricking fingers are both much easier than doing that, right?
4)âHave you tried this herb?â â Again, this shows lack of understanding about Type 1 diabetes on your part. There is no herb that cures Type 1 diabetes, none.
5)â I would never tell anybody if my child had it.â â This is wrong on so many accounts I canât even begin to say. You are implying the parent should somehow be ASHAMED of their child having this disease, something they had no control over, and something that has no reflection on the parent or the child as a person. Type 1 does not strike only certain types of people; it affects anyone and every one of all backgrounds, lifestyles, nations etc. Sharing personal family health information is something a family will decide on their own, no matter what the situation/disease process. Your job is to listen and be supportive, not throw stones.
6)âWell maybe he/she will outgrow it.â â Again, showing lack of understanding about Type 1, but at least not being judgmental this time. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong illness that you do not “grow out ofâ at any time. There may be what we call “honeymoon periodsâ at the very beginning, but the disease stays for life, unless a pancreas transplant cures the patient.
7)âMy aunt/neighbour/brother has diabetes too and they do such-and-such.â â Unless your relation has Type 1 diabetes, you cannot compare the two situations. Type 2 diabetes, which is the one more often found in adults, is managed very differently than Type 1 diabetes in children. Yes, they may both be treated with insulin and diet is important for both, but they are not the same disease, so your comments, while well meaning, are not likely to be helpful.
There are many other comments or questions I have heard over time that really make me shake my head in wonder that people think so little about what they say. So, the rule I suggest you follow is this: if you donât know much about Type 1 diabetes, donât say anything aside from this: “Let me know if I can help in any wayâ and offer your best wishes.
Until next week, stay safe and healthy Vincies!
Anita Ramsetty, MD firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group