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What to expect when your child moves into adult diabetes care

As your child grows up, they’ll move from paediatric care into adult care. This is what lots of medical professionals call transition. 

Everyone with type 1 diabetes will have a medical team around them that will help them manage their diabetes as best they can. 

Moving clinics can be a nervous time for both you and your child. You’ll both have to get used to a new team, a new system and as a parent or carer, you’ll have to get used to your child having more control when it comes to their diabetes management.

Download our guide to transition

When will my child transition into adult care?

There isn’t a specific age that your child will move into adult care.

When your child moves into adult care will depend on a few things like where you live, the setup of your local services, and if your child’s healthcare team feels they’re ready. 

Your healthcare team should discuss moving into the adult clinic with you both in advance when they think its time for your child to move.

What’s different about adult care? 

There are a few things that will be different for your child going into adult care. But the biggest change will be the shift in focus from looking after diabetes as a family, to your child managing it more themselves. 

There are other things that will change like:

  • The time and location of appointments.
  • The doctors, nurses and reception staff you see.
  • Your child’s targets, like their HbA1c target level, might change.
  • More people waiting for appointments with other conditions like diabetes complications.  
  • Your child’s emergency contact for help between appointments.
  • If you had home or school visits these will probably stop if you had these.

Questions to ask your healthcare team about adult care

It’s worth making sure you and your child have thought about all the things you might want to ask your current and new healthcare team. 

You can ask whatever you like, but here are a few ideas:

  • Can we visit the adult service before I move? 
  • Can I meet my new doctors and nurses before I move?
  • Do you have a young adult clinic and how does it work? 
  • Will parents still be able go to appointments in the adult clinic?

Sit down with your child and talk about what you both want to know, it’s important you explain you’re not an expert either and you both need to figure out the move together. Write down your questions and make sure your current doctor and nurses explain everything you need and want to know before your child moves. 

Helping your child manage their move into adult care 

Talking to your child about transitioning into adult services is really helpful because you’ll be able to find out more about if they’re worried about moving and why. 

There are some things you can do that can reassure them and help them to be more confident moving into adult care. 

Make sure your child knows why they’re moving into adult care 

As your child gets older and they start to manage their diabetes more independently, adult care will suit them better. 

It’s about giving them all the skills they need to be able to manage their diabetes which can include learning to carb count on their own, learning how to change their dose, or simply feeling comfortable enough in an adult clinic and asking for help from a doctor or nurse.

This is important as it will prepare your child for growing up, moving out and just making them feel more prepared. But it might not always feel like this at the start though. 

It’s important that they know as much about moving into adult diabetes care as possible and that they know moving doesn’t mean they’ll have to do it all on their own straight away.

Set small goals to help your child learn about managing their diabetes

Setting goals is a way you can help your child grow in confidence and independence before they move into adult care. These could include different things like:

  • They start to make their own appointments with the doctor
  • Learn to carb counting without needing help
  • Cook for themselves and the family once a week
  • Sit with their healthcare team and speak about their diabetes on their own 
  • Go to an appointment on their own
  • Get to the clinic and back on their own when they’re old enough. 

There are lots of different ways you can encourage your child to be more independent and still help them if you need too. You can do this by waiting in the waiting instead of going into the appointment. Ask them to explain what the doctor said so you know they understand what they might need to do differently, what they’re doing well or what they could start doing and why. 

Getting support as a parent or carer during transition

Being part of adult services will also be different for you as a parent or carer because they grow up you will have less input over how your child treats their diabetes.

There aren’t any right or wrong answers when it comes to supporting your child. Make sure you talk to them and understand what being independent means to them but make sure they know you have confidence in them to look after their own diabetes, will help boost their own self-confidence. 

But remember that this is also big change for you and getting support for yourself is also important. Moving into adult or young adult care doesn’t mean you stop being a parent or carer and you’ll probably still be the first person they go to for help. 

Try speaking to other parents or carers who also have or had children who’ve moved into adult services. Finding other parents who understand so you can all share your emotions and experiences can be a huge relief if you’re feeling anxious. 

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