Diabetes - Type 1 Community
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Avatar universal

Leaving 21 Year Old Son with Diabetes Alone?

Here I go again, and I think I have another issue after this one.  Thanks to all who answer questions, and offer their experienced advice here.

This is my dilemma.  We are going away for the first time without are 21 year old son with us, or where he is with someone.  He is insisting that he stay alone, that he is looking forward to being by himself, and that he has a phone right next to his bed for emergency.  However, everything I've always read, and still do read states that people with diabetes should not live or be alone.  This of course is in case of emergency, which granted happens infrequently, but is still an area for concern.  I know the 1 time he experienced ketoacidosis, that he literally couldn't move himself he was so sick.  The question then is, if he had been alone that night, would he have been able to call 911 even if the phone was right next to him?

I want his best friend to stay with him for the 4 nights we are gone.  His friend has known him since 4th grade, and understands more than any other friend about the lows and problems associated with the disease.  I have no doubt that his friend could and would keep a very watchful and caring eye on Danny.

My husband suggested letting our son ask his drs. assistant on Tuesday at his appt. in his own words if it is ok for him to be alone while we're gone.  What do you think of that?  The danger I guess is that I don't know this physician's assistant, and he/she may not agree with what I have read on the subject. The other issue is whether I feel at ease w/ him being alone, w/ us so far away.

8 Responses
Avatar universal
I am not a physician, but the mom of a type one diabetic and a volunteer. I can tell you that I do know the feeling of wanting to be there for your son/daughter at all times and the fear of leaving your child alone and having a severe low, but we must let them be themselves.  
I believe and so do our doctors that we should treat a diabetic as a child (or person) first and a diabetic second.  Yes it will be hard on you to leave your son, but he is 21 and should be able to handle his diabetes by himself.   My daughter is much younger and there have been times when she was alone (even for 1/2 hours), but she has a cell phone preprogrammed with important numbers on one touch dialing and there has not been a problem.  Your son has a right to be left alone, would you do it if he was not a diabetic? At 21 your son legally is an adult and able to be his own, whether or not you or anyone agrees.  I do feel for you, but we must let our children know that we trust them to take care of their diabetes, as unfortunately we cannot always be with them.
As your husband suggested I would have your son discuss it with his doctor if he experiences severe lows as that could be a problem, but you need to listen to your son and if he is responsible let him be a man and take care of his diabetes.

I might suggest that your check with your son on a regular basis, if you have cell phones do it on a one touch dialing.   We have done this, with my daughter who likes to go on sleepovers to friends houses.  Most of the families do not always know about diabetes, but with the cell phone they touch one button and my husband or I are at the other end to answer all their questions take care of the situations.   The other parents have said that it has helped them get over there worry of
Avatar universal
It isn't a question of "my" worry over leaving him alone, it is a question on what the diabetes magazines, and drs have stated in the past.  I have been told or read since my son was diagnosed that NO diabetics should live alone for the concern of having a low blood sugar (or ketoacidosis)and not being able to get help for themselves.  I've heard about little kids calling for help for their diabetic parents who can't get help themselves because they are unconscious, or dogs barking relentlessly because they knew something was wrong with their owner.  

Have you never been told by your drs, or read in the Diabetes magazines that they shouldn't live alone, that they should always have a roommate, or mate?  That is my fear, not that he can't handle the daily regimen of taking care of himself, since he's been doing that now for over 13 years more or less.  The night he suffered Ketoacidosis he literally couldn't move he was so weak.  My husband and I couldn't lift him properly without making him sick, and were forced to call the paramedics.  I'm not confidant he could have even placed a phone call to 911, which is a scary thought.

I appreciate your taking the time for a response, I just feel you misunderstood my concern.  

Avatar universal
Hi Annie,
ANother volunteer here and a long-time diabetic.  I was dx'd as a teen and am now 50.

It's a matter of degree -- the issue of us being alone.  If we are incapable of caring for ourselves, or we are in the early learning stages of diabetes mgt, it seems quite reasonable to have others nearby.  OTOH, I have lived & continue to live a full life.  For about 10 years, I had my own apartment after outgrowing the "joy of roommates" ;-)

The other important point is that each of diabetics *MUST* become our own physician.  We must be able to depend on ourselves and to be mindful of our bodies -- testing more often if needeed when we're alone -- since it will eventually happen.  My parents did the heroes' work that you & your hubby are doing and now I encourage you to take the next step, so your son can, too.

I know that you know he doesn't need a "sitter."  He needs to have a plan if he's not feeling well.  Even if a friend sleeps over, if they don't share a bed his friend might not hear him, blah blah blah... He needs to err on the side of caution and learn to ask for help sooner rather than later when he's alone.

I have, on occasion, gone into a restaurant and asked for OJ right away cuz I'm diabetic & low.  They respond and ask questions later.  Your son probably has similar experiences.

I had an even more frightening incident that migth be helpful for you to discuss with him.  I was living alone in a new city where I had moved to start a new job.  One day, I ate something that ended up giving me food poisoning tho' I didn't realize it when I ate it.  When I got home that evening, I started to throw up ... and threw up a coupla times.  I was scared that if it continued I'd end up in DKA.  It was evening ... and getting later.  I called my neighbor across the street, nice folks I barely knew, and ask them to drive me to the ER.  They did and when I was in the hands of the medical folks, they left.  

If I had NOT lived alone, I likely would've waited it out a bit, tried to stabilize with bits of fluid and maybe anti-nausea medicine.  **Because ** I lived alone, I had to be more cautious and I knew that.  Your son is capable of that type of forward-thinking, too.  

Truth is, most of our waking hours we are in contact with folks, perhaps even surrounded by folks, who know nothing about how to care for diabetes.  Yet it is rare, indeed, that we are TRULY alone in that we cannot ask for help as we err on the side of caution.  

Bottom line, yes I've heard the caution and I consider it in the context of a diabetic person's ability to be responsible and aware of him/herself.  I'm 110% sure that your 21 year old is capable and has likely demonstrated that in small ways already.  

If he is "defiant" about his self-care in general, you must also step back and allow him to take responsibility, for a person like that will NEVER "own" their self care if someone else is willing to do it.  Scary, but true.

Good luck.  I sincerely hope you & hubby can enjoy your few days away.  You deserve it!  :-))
Avatar universal
I have not read that a diabetic should never be left alone.  I would be more cautious like LRS stated above, but it is unrealistic to think that a diabetic should never be left alone.  If the person is a ware and can handle there diabetes they should take  precautions, but they live there lives.
Avatar universal
I personally do not find anything wrong with a diabetic being left alone, provided that the diabetic is mature and can care for him/herself.

Two months after i was diagnosed, (and i was then younger than your son) i already stayed two weeks alone.

Let's face it, i can understand the worry you have, but he will eventually get married and move out altogether, so i would say that as long as he can take care of himself - he can be by himself.

Avatar universal
Hello Annie,
As a mother of a diabetic, I understand your fears and your concern.

My son was diagnosed 7 yrs. ago at the age of 3, so, because he is 10, I have not had to deal with what you are going through right now.

I do know that you could talk to several parents and get some who say, let go, leave him alone and others who say, have his friend stay with him.

Not only is my son living with type 1, but, my sister is, as well.  She wad dxd 9 yrs. ago at age 24.  I have seen my sister experience some lows where she could nto move her legs and it is frightening.  My son does have lows with the same symptoms as my sister.  Of course, I hope that I do not see him like that.  

This is a hard call because you want him to have his independence, however, I believe it is different to leave your child alone for a few hours or a day, but for 4 days, for me, it would produce so much anxiety that I would feel much more comfortable to have my kid's friend stay with him.  I would say that you need to go with your instinct.  Sure, I have talked to mothers of diabetic children who are in their early twenties and some live alone and some do not.  One mother was relieved when her son found a roommate.  

I guess this is an individual thing because not all people livign with diabetes experience the same exact symptoms.  This may sound crazy to some of you, but, at the present time, my sis is livign with my parents.  (She has some other health probs in addition to diabetes)  Well, my parents went out of town recently for 3 nights, 4 days and asked me to stay there, so my kids and I stayed there....just to be there if my sister needed me.  As I mentioned, she experiences lows that are unlike my son's.  

I know your son wants to stay alone and is 21, so it seems as though you cannot force him to have someone there, however, have you asked him about his friend staying there?

Keep us posted.  (Please let there be a cure before my son is 18!!!)

Warm Regards,
Another protective, concerned mom:)
Avatar universal
I read this topic with great interest. I have never heard that people with type 1 diabetes cannot or should not be left alone. I also have a "type 1" 20 year old son who is fiercely independent, and who would be highly offended if he thought that he could not be "left alone". Prior to reading this post, I never thought twice about leaving him at home alone while on short  vacations. Perhaps there is something more that I should be doing. I worry much more when he is out drinking with his friends than when he is at home alone. He was only diagnosed less than a year, and I am still dealing with the shock of it all, but he is determined not to let diabetes dictate his lifestyle.
Avatar universal
I just want to add that as the Mom of a 17 year old (diagnosed at 21 months),going off to college in the fall this topic caught my attention.  My husband and I have brought our daughter up to be a "kid with diabetes", not a "diabetic kid".  She has grown up with diabetes and we have grown with her.  It scares me to death to see her go off and to realize that I won't be there if she needs me.  It's the sleeping issue that really bothers me.  After last summer, I have become more confident in her ability to be OK during the night and realize that being prepared is the key to the being alone/becoming independent scenario.  She went away for 10 days to a University for a medical forum - 8 hours away from home.  She took her alarm clock with her, checked her bg before going to sleep and based on her activity and her bg, set the alarm for 3am and re-checked. Because of her age (16 then), she'd call us before bed with her bg and we'd decide what snack or correction she needed. It really showed us that she could do what we'd been doing for her for all of those years!

It may be very impowering for your son to have this time to himself as long as he is prepared.  Taking control of his disease is a difficult but necessary part of life, and probably more difficult for you.  Let him prove to you that he can do this - you'll feel better after he shows you he can too!
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