Who We Are: Emotional and Lifestyle Support
Meet the Diabetes Center team members who help patients and their families with emotional and lifestyle support.
Your diabetes nurse practitioner (NP) and your certified diabetes educator (CDE) are key members of your care team — for both the medical side of managing diabetes and the emotional side. They have experience working with children, teens and their families through all stages of diabetes — from the scary and overwhelming first days and through transitioning to adult care — and helping you cope with the emotional roller coaster all those stages can create.
Your NP and CDE also will get to know your child and your family as members of your dedicated diabetes team, and they will use that knowledge to suggest strategies that will work for your family.
When your child, you or other family members are struggling to handle the emotional side of diabetes, they are the first resource you should contact. Often, their advice will help you weather that particular storm. If the situation doesn’t improve, they may connect you with another member of the Diabetes Center team, such as a social worker, child life specialist or psychologist.
Diabetes social worker
Social workers help patients and families cope with the emotional and practical challenges of a new and ongoing illness. The social worker’s role is to assess the psychosocial needs of your child and family, help you navigate the health system, advocate to assure all your needs are met, and connect you to the appropriate resources, within the hospital and in the community.
A social worker is available to, for example, help you and your child:
- Adjust to living with diabetes
- Figure out best parenting strategies for a child with diabetes
- Negotiate peaceful solutions around family struggles with diabetes
- Get family members on the same page with diabetes
- Identify healthy coping strategies
- Deal with guilt/feeling sorry for your child
- Manage your reaction to diabetes
- Put diabetes in its place in your life
- Evaluate anxiety and depression in the parent and child
- A social worker can help you access resources, such as:
- Navigate complicated insurance situations
- Work with schools to access resources and accommodations (create a 504 plan)
- Transition patients to adult endocrinology
- Access community resources (insurance options, family diabetes support, FMLA)
- Suggest other services to help you and your family
- Access and coordinate outside mental health care when needed
“Diabetes is definitely a life-changing event but it does not limit us. We can achieve greatness like anybody else. It will be hard at times, but keep your head high and stay positive.”
Diabetes child life specialist
A child life specialist is specially trained to provide care and support designed to meet the unique needs of children and families as they cope with a diabetes diagnosis and learn how to manage the disease. They recognize the therapeutic value of play to help children facing a lifelong disease cope with their situation.
A child life specialists will:
- Provide age-appropriate play and other activities that encourage mastery, coping and expression of feelings for both patients and siblings of patients
- Increase familiarity with hospital and clinical surroundings and prepare children and families for medical experiences
- Bridge the gap between home and hospital by providing familiar activities such as play, birthday and holiday observations while a child is inpatient
- Work closely with the family and with the child’s diabetes team to minimize the stress of a hospital or outpatient visit and to achieve healthcare goals
A child life specialist will also help your family through:
- Education, preparation and developmentally appropriate activities to help minimize stress
- Encouragement of positive coping skills
“I am no longer frightened and am ready to tackle any obstacles that stand in my way!”
Pediatric psychologists with the Diabetes Center support children, teens and families as they build skills in learning to live with a chronic health condition. We provide psychological consultations and cognitive-behavioral outpatient therapy (also known as counseling) to patients, as well as offer strategies for families to support their children and teens with diabetes.
A pediatric psychologist can help patients and families with:
- Coping with distress related to having diabetes
- Improving motivation to complete diabetes management behaviors
- Teaching parenting strategies to assist with limit setting and compliance around diabetes tasks
- Setting age and developmentally appropriate expectations for who completes which diabetes tasks in families
- Assessment of psychosocial aspects of living with diabetes and explanation of how different factors (i.e., parenting, peers, blood sugar numbers) affect your child’s mood and behavior
- Diagnosis and treatment of mental health symptoms (i.e., depressed mood, anxiety, oppositional behavior) that commonly occur for youth with diabetes
“We go through daily life, it feels manageable.”
Diabetes community health worker
Some children and families have a particularly difficult time navigating the health system and effectively managing diabetes. Those families can get hands-on help from a specially trained community health worker.
The community health worker will help your family:
- Make a plan for getting to appointments so your child doesn’t miss out on important tests, follow-up and education
- Serve as a conduit between your child’s diabetes team and your family, facilitating getting questions answered and improving communication
- Scout out local sources of nutritious food and plan for healthy eating for the whole family
- Support the family during any inpatient stays
“It can be scary and stressful at times, especially as a single parent. It’s been really helpful to have [our community health worker] supporting us.”