Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
Turning back the clock on diabetes takes you to a simple time; one that centered on insulin, urine test strips, syringes and a prescribed diabetes diet.
This period of old school management still exists in many households across the world—for some, regular access to insulin remains an essential problem. In contrast, we often see technology driven diabetes management—the cash cow—and its addictive accoutrements that run on AAA batteries and USB cables.
The simplicity of diabetes has been replaced by expensive pumps, glucometers, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), insulin pens and apps. Secondary to this, diabetes technology addictions are a new addition to D-life as they record our every movement.
Patients struggle to find balance in the digital age with a defunct pancreas asking: What are my levels now? What are my levels now? What are my levels now?
Sara Johnson in The Atlantic states: “I feel naked without being able to take a quick glance at the CGM receiver to see where my glucose level is.”
We’re very accustomed to people having their faces glued to their phones, but what happens when it’s a CGM? Over-treating and compulsively checking is the new face of diabetes for some, creating a rift of concerns.
When Things Go Bleep in the Night
With the best intentions to stuff technology into a pocket or purse, we are still left with bleeping and buzzing that demands an interface on a regular basis—even overnight.
I, for one, welcome technology with open arms as a person living with and parenting a child living with Type 1 diabetes. The peace of mind that comes along with an iPod-sized electronic CGM is priceless in my world. Nothing’s perfect, of course, but CGM technology has been one of the best digital tools available to people with diabetes in the past decade.
I’ve learned to love the noises that come along with technology, as long as I’m not in a yoga class. They poke at me, warning of potential dangers related to exercise, too much or too little insulin, stress, illness, a defunct insulin pump site, meals that have raised blood sugars hours later and a plethora of other scenarios that demand interventions—yes, even in the middle of the night.
Keeping It Balanced
Checking, fixing, and waiting are three tasks people with diabetes are skilled at. Being patient before starting the process all over again is vital in maintaining safety when the fixing happens with the high-risk medicine of insulin.
Technology may promote continual glancing, sometimes extra worry and hot fingers to correct again before insulin has peaked and done its job.
Patience is a lifelong lesson those of us living with diabetes learn on a daily basis. Even though CGM’s have a predictive factor, living in the moment is a must. Health isn’t found by staring at the screen; its value actually increases by tucking it away, waiting for alerts and looking at trending patterns rather than the minute-by-minute plays. So put away the constant worry and watching and enjoy your life.
Technology is incredible, but it doesn’t come without its caveats. Numbers aren’t always correct on glucometers or CGM’s and insulin pumps can have multiple points of failure as well. We’ve been caught with our pants down—so to speak—on vacation with a pump failure that was close to wrecking the first few days of remote travel. Luckily, diabetes technology can have some simple fixes and 24 hour help lines can ‘save the day’ when your life literally depends upon it.
Try These Moderations
• Set limits: “Knowing you’ll be checking it soon will help keep your brain from obsessing”, according to Prevention.
• Take a technology break: Go on a beach vacation, temporarily revert to syringes with the help of your physician and be free!
• Make a plan: Resolve to obsess less by looking at your continuous glucose monitor less frequently and stick with it.
• Commit to learning: By understanding the profile of insulin with its onset, peak and duration, the dangerous situation of over-correcting high blood sugars can be averted.