What Is Transition Care in Type 1 Diabetes?
Transition care: if your child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he or she was young, at some point, you may encounter this phrase.
From the time your child was diagnosed, you’ve been, most likely, dealing with a pediatric endocrinologist and a diabetes treatment team. But there will, of course, come a time when your child can no longer see the pediatric endocrinologist; he or she will need to transition to an adult endocrinologist and an adult treatment team.
This is the crux of transition care: helping your child make the jump to taking care of their diabetes treatment on their own.
As a parent, you know that that’s a big part of raising kids—getting them ready to thrive in the world. When you add in the transition to managing diabetes on their own, it can be a frightening proposition (for you and for them).
However, we know that you want what’s best for your child with type 1 diabetes, and that’s why we’ve created this series addressing transition care. It will help both of you make this important transition.
Why Is a Good Transition So Important in Type 1 Diabetes?
We probably don’t even have to mention this: type 1 diabetes is a chronic, lifelong condition, and your child (and the rest of your family) has had to learn how to live with it.
Blood glucose monitoring, insulin doses, hypoglycemia, sick day management, bolus and basal, pump therapy. All these phrases—and more—have become part of your daily vocabulary.
You’ve managed doctor’s appointments, nighttime hypoglycemia, and making sure you have enough supplies before heading out on vacation. You have, in short, been an integral part in managing your child’s diabetes.
But just as they must learn to handle other aspects of their life on their own—growing in responsibility as they grow older—children with type 1 diabetes will need to learn to handle their diabetes on their own.
If this transition from pediatric to adult care in diabetes (and from you managing more of your child’s day-to-day diabetes need to them self-managing) isn’t handled well, it can have long-term consequences.
If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes for over 10 to 15 years and blood glucose levels have not been in the recommended range for the majority of that time, early signs of diabetes complications (such as heart disease and eye trouble) can start to show up in that late teenage to mid-20s phase, so maintaining good control is especially vital.
A big part of maintaining good control is regularly seeing the doctor and/or the diabetes treatment team. If there isn’t a smooth transition between pediatric and adult care, months—or even a year or more—can go by without an appointment, potentially leading to worse control.
Also, if your child can create healthy, structured diabetes behaviors during that “early adulthood” phase—commitment to self-monitoring, paying attention to their meals, exercising, etc.—then he or she is more likely to stick with these behaviors for years to come.
You don’t want your child to fall through the cracks in this transition—and your child’s doctor doesn’t want that to happen, either. By working closely with the diabetes treatment team, you and your family can help your child make a smooth transition to caring for their diabetes on their own.
You know they can handle it, and this article series will help you take steps to ease the transition.