T1D in College

Summer’s only halfway over, but parents and their high school graduates are already starting to think about getting organized for college. They are busy checking the seemingly endless college packing list of towels, XL linens, laundry supplies, shampoo, and body wash (what ever happened to good old-fashioned soap?) – all the personal items that a recently hatched college student will need in a new setting. These are standard items on college supply lists but parents of students with T1D have an even wider list to consider. And one that causes more angst since their child will be leaving the structure and oversight of home to live miles away without them – and from the built-in stock of medications, supplies and support infrastructure necessary to manage their diabetes.

Susan Russell, mother of William, a teen living with T1D who will attend College of Charleston this fall, has already been hard at work getting ready for his departure. She says that getting her daughters off to college was nothing like what she has had to do laying the groundwork for William’s matriculation. Off the top of her head, she quickly rattled off a laundry list of actions that she has already taken to ensure that William has the medical resources and academic support to manage his disease at college. To date, she has “identified and signed up with a local internist for more personalized care since the campus health center sees 100 to 200 patients a day; located and provided prescriptions to a 24/7 pharmacy near William’s dorm in case he needs medication or insulin in the middle of the night; signed up with the college’s disability office to ensure he has academic accommodations for his medical condition; made sure that he has access to food and juices at whatever hour he needs them.” Whew – and that was just the start.  A T1D parent’s job is certainly more complicated and demanding than most to-dos for parents of college-bound children. The complexity of the college preparation process coupled with the anxiety of what-ifs that are part of daily life with a T1D child add a stressful dimension to sending the child off to college.

Fortunately, there are some helpful resources for college-bound T1D children and their parents. Dr. David C. Mellinger’s “Preparing Students With Diabetes for Life at College” has suggestions on what to do before matriculation, while at school, as well as some other topics to consider. He addresses health care and financial issues, requisite medical and nutritional supplies, and social considerations. JDRF’s “T1D in College” providesresources to help young adults gain independence and thrive in the college environment.” The College Diabetes Network (CDN) also has some useful tips for parents and students, including opportunities to join or initiate college CDN chapters. *

These resources certainly cannot completely allay the separation anxiety that parents (and perhaps their children) will likely face. But perhaps they can, at least, provide an action plan to help position the student for success in managing his/her T1D while away at college – and therefore allow parents to sleep a bit more peacefully.

*These are third-party resources and JDRF does not endorse them.