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Fun Glucose Checks for Kids

Posted on July 30, 2010 | No Comments on Fun Glucose Checks for Kids

For people with diabetes, checking blood sugar everyday is important. It is part of the routine they must do to keep their diabetes under control. And because it is routinely done, checking their blood sugar becomes automatic. Sometimes, diabetics get so used to the idea that they are not bothered by the regular needle pricks at all. But for some, they get tired of the daily process and lose interest in doing it altogether. And before they know it, the worst happens, and complications set in.

If adults experience such down moments, how much more would young children with diabetes? Sometimes, they are too young to even understand the whole situation. But because of their illness, they have to experience daily glucose check-ups, even insulin injections for many.

This is the challenge for doctors that see young patients with diabetes. They need to have the right approach, especially towards children, to motivate them and make them check their blood glucose regularly without hesitation.

Be a Respected Authority
Just like kids in preschool where teachers play the respected authority, doctors too play a big role in the life of a diabetic child. Doctors have to establish a connection with their patients for them to gain their trust and respect. Once the relationship is there, the young patients wouldn’t want anything but to make their doctors think highly of them.

“Diabetics keep a notebook to record their blood sugar level, and whenever a kid has a good record, they become proud to show it to their doctor,” explains Dr. Melinda Atienza, president of the Philippine Society of Pediatric Metabolism and Endocrinology. These patients see their doctors as an authority and like any other child, they like to impress their doctors. And to be able to do that, they know that the way to get their doctors’ approving smile is a good record of blood sugar levels.

Reinforcing with a Reward
In school, a high grade may be given a “star” or a medal. For impressive diabetic records, doctors also give certain rewards. Dr. Atienza says she usually uses reinforcements with children. So when her young patients come in to see her with their notebook showing their good glucose level, she praises them. “Sometimes for the younger ones, I give them stickers,” shares Dr. Atienza.

But as they grow older, like in the case of adolescents, their rewards change. They need more than tangible things to feel the approval of their doctors.

This time, older kids need more support and emotions to feel the doctors’ sincerity. That is why explaining the real nature of their illness gradually takes place as they grow old, Dr. Atienza suggests. It is important that they know the truth bit by bit for them to understand their situation better.

In the Hope of Imitation
Young children imitate almost anything they see or hear. This, says Dr. Atienza, is one of the reasons why they hold a summer camp for diabetic kids. “With the summer camp, we hope that whatever they will do there will also be done when they go back to their respective homes,” she says.

In this one-day summer camp at San Mateo, Rizal, kids aged 10 and up are encouraged to join in different activities that may help them cope with their diabetes. Their day starts with an early morning exercise, followed by monitoring of their blood glucose and an injection of insulin before meals.

Once children are exposed to this kind of routine, the idea may be brought home. Such activities help increase children’s compliance to blood glucose checks, making them feel that the activity is not a nuisance anymore, but part of a necessary routine.

It Starts with One’s Self
Even though Dr. Atienza seems to be an expert in the different ways of motivating her patients, she knows for a fact that true compliance would only come naturally when it starts with one’s self. Explaining the illness properly and gradually, most especially to children, would make them understand how important it is to have regular blood glucose checks. But of course, there are also times that children would have to learn it the hard way such as when they experience the consequences of uncontrolled (both high and low) blood sugar levels.

When kids go through the graveness of the illness, they learn from it. They do not want it to happen again, and this time, the explanation of the doctor, alongside their experience, would help convince the patient to be compliant with the procedure.

“So that is their motivation, that they will not get sick, that they will be better with a normal sugar level,” says Dr. Atienza. “This is because they wouldn’t want to experience the gravity of their illness anymore.” Like in any other illness or chronic disease, the path to effective management and treatment always follows certain processes. Start with one’s self. Once a person can motivate himself or herself, the rest will eventually follow, without hesitation, without force, just naturally.

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