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The Future is Now

© 2014 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and http://StrangelyDiabetic.com

Back in the day, the demographics of type 1 diabetes were pretty simple. Kids got it and their parents cared for them. Once they grew up, they tended to drop from the radar screen of society as they went to college, got married, had kids, paid taxes, and thought about retirement.

More and more diabetics are living longer and better lives, reaching that point where retirement is on the horizon, something many of us never thought we’d see. Our parents are now retired and elderly, often with special care requirements of their own. This is nothing unusual for our generation and it’s not like people are really surprised that the baby boomers were going to retire some day. At first, it struck me as odd that I was now caring for the woman who was my caregiver as I grew up… It just didn’t feel ‘right.’

What is surprising is the number of these new caregivers who are suffering from chronic health conditions themselves. Chronic health problems are no walk in the park and adding in caregiving for an elderly parent can certainly add to that load.

Another change is that  type 1 diabetes is no longer considered a children’s disease. People of any age are diagnosed and at an increasing rate.

I know that I didn’t really expose my own children with how to manage my condition, even though I’ve had it for their entire lives. I would imagine that most people would tend to take the same approach to not burden or worry their children and for people diagnosed after their own kids have moved out, there would probably be even less exposure.

At some point, our children will become our caregivers. How do we prepare them for that?

The first thought might be that it would be like a new diagnosis for a child, where the caregiver (parent) learns through a trial by fire, guiding the child through learning as well. But the reality is that these adult diabetes are not children nor are they new to their condition. We will know more than our caretakers, again reversing the traditional roles of caregiver calling the shots, although at some point it may come to that. I know that I’m old and pretty set in my ways so I can imagine a few knock-down, drag-outs as my daughter is much the same way, minus the ‘old’ part. I really don’t want to subject her, or my son, to that.

As I said earlier, it feels odd at first being a caregiver for someone who used to do the same for you. I imagine that it will feel even odder switching roles yet again.

I’m a big fan of the Friend for Life Conference (FFL) held every summer in Orlando, if you can, you should go. A friend of mine with type 1 tweeted that he had registered his non-diabetic son for FFL, so his son could take part at the same time he did. That tweet reminded me of sessions I attended in the past where they have sessions on caregiving for parents, loved ones, and  grandparents and they all talk about how to take care of yourself while caring for a diabetic child.  Soon we’re going to need these session for our non-diabetic children as they move into the role of caregiver and we swing into the role of cared-for, some of this will be our second time through.

While we don’t wish to see our parents needing our aid or us needing the aid of our children, it will happen.  We’re already seeing people with chronic health conditions of their own taking on a caregiving role for our parents. And as more and more of the type 1 community ages long past what everyone thought, more and more of our children will be caring for us, many having their own health issues.

This future is here now.

© 2014 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and http://StrangelyDiabetic.com

  • Colleen

    It’s one of the things I think about these days. When I began pumping and would visit my dad in the nursing home, the nurses and aides had no idea what a pump was. This month I had my annual mammogram and the tech – had never seen a pump inset or a CGMS.
    And – I was dx’d the week my dad was hospitalized – my PCP is convinced that the stress may have been just the push that my LADA needed to appear.
    Getting old ain’t for sissies.

  • http://www.diabetesdaily.com/johnson/ Scott K. Johnson

    Powerful post, Scott, as usual. This is something I’ve never thought of before, but you’re absolutely right. Thanks for opening up another new perspective.