Living alone with type 1 diabetes - tips for optimal comfort and relaxation in your sacred space
About 2 months ago I decided to make a huge change in regards to my living environment. I decided for the first time in my adulthood that I wanted to live alone. As a self-identifying introvert, empath and generally sensitive human, I was confident that living alone was the right decision for me. It would
grant me the headspace I had always struggled to find while living with roommates. As with most big transitions in life, you can never be fully prepared for how they will go - there are just too many variables to account for. Even if we plan each and every detail, life will surely throw something unexpected our way. So far, the biggest obstacle I’ve faced while settling into my new place has been time management - who knew there’d be a million extra things on my to-do list?!
Not only do I have to take care of all the responsibilities of the home, I also have had to adjust how to best manage my type 1 diabetes. Not much has changed physically with how I manage it, but mentally - it has added a lot more weight to my everyday. Knowing I am alone and not able to rely on a housemate as a safety net is scary. However, knowing I can be fully independent despite my chronic illness is an exceptionally proud defining moment for me.
During my busiest transitional period, I found that my health priorities took a bit of a back seat. I wasn’t neglecting my health, but it definitely wasn’t a main focus during that time. Looking back, I realized that if I had given it a little more care, it would’ve made the rest of my life a lot easier. Thus, the never-ending struggle of being an adult and finding balance in the every day continues.
Having said that, here is a list of some of the things I did and wish I had done during my move that helped me stay focused while still making sure my diabetes was being taken care of.
1. Give a set of keys to your friends and family
Knowing a friend or family member you trust have access to your space in emergencies will give you an invaluable amount of peace of mind. I personally live on the 2nd floor of an apartment building with no elevator so if I am feeling crappy and need someone to come over and bring me something, I know I can stay in bed while they let themselves in. In general, it is a good idea for someone to have an extra set of keys to your place if you live alone. It will save you from a multitude of avoidable situations such as: freaking out if you’ve lost your keys and needing someone to check that your house hasn’t burnt down while you’re on vacation, etc…
2. Transfer your prescription ahead of time
This is something I learned the hard way. I ran out of insulin and needed it that day but unfortunately, I didn’t transfer my prescription in time so I had to make the trek all the way across town to my old pharmacy to pick it up. This only really needs to be done one day ahead of time, but it will save you so much needless panic. It’s so easy too - all you have to do is call your new pharmacy and give them your old pharmacy's phone number and ask them to transfer everything over!
3. Get a CGM
I’ve been using a Dexcom CGM for 3 years and I can honestly say that I’ve never appreciated it more than right now. Thanks to the alerts, I can be notified when my blood sugar is getting a little high or low so it’s much easier to keep it in range. Nights can be a really scary time in regards to type 1 diabetes, especially living alone. One of my biggest fears is having a bad low in the night and not being able to wake up. Wearing a Dexcom CGM eliminates this fear and allows me to sleep much more soundly. The Dexcom G6 offers a new “urgent low soon” alert as well, which is extra helpful for catching lows before they get really bad. During my initial move, I barely had any extra time for self-care or tight diabetes management. Normally, I’d be stressing out about calibrating or testing my blood sugar manually, but with the Dexcom G6, calibrations have totally been eliminated! The last and possibly best feature Dexcom offers for someone who lives alone is the share feature. I can share my glucose readings with my family in real-time so if something is up (or down), they know!
4. Have low supplies in every room
When I am low, the last thing I want to be doing is searching for low treatments, so I keep a juice box and granola bar in every room just in case. This has proven especially useful for nighttime lows. I personally find them the worst and most disorienting, so having some supplies in my bedside table has been really helpful. I also like to keep some glucose tabs in my go-to purses and backpacks at all times, since I find I sometimes forget to transfer supplies when changing bags.
5. Know your neighbours
This is a tip that is helpful for people living with or without T1D. Getting to know your neighbours will make you feel more comfortable in your new space and community. Knowing there are people nearby who are able to help you in times of need is again, invaluable to having peace of mind in your space. This is especially applicable to those living in apartments, getting to know the people on your floor who literally share walls with you is important. Having a kind and cordial relationship is imperative for discussing any problems in the building or if you need to borrow some baking ingredients.
6. Fill your house with healthy food options
As someone who has a bit of a problem with portion sizes (especially when it comes to treats), I try to fill my cupboards and fridge with lots of healthy treats and junk food alternatives. I know myself and I know that if there is a bag of chips in my cupboard… I will most likely eat the whole thing in one sitting. Having veggie sticks with hummus, dark chocolate, banana nice cream and food options I won't feel tempted to overindulge in is helpful with my mental state and blood sugar management.
If you are someone who has type 1 diabetes and is considering living alone, really take the time to consider how prepared you are to be 100% independent with the disease. Spend some time reflecting, journaling and making a list of your wants and needs so you can make the best decisions for yourself and make home your happy place. Most transitions in life bring lots of unknowns and those can be frightening and sometimes even deter us from what we really want. It’s important to take note of those fearful feelings that may be holding us back from progressing so that we can move towards our most ideal life. Type 1 diabetes has the power to make us fearful since it came upon us in an unknown way. Instead of letting it hold us back, it’s much more rewarding if we take ownership over it and remind ourselves that “we are able to achieve all the things we want while still managing a chronic illness” - that in itself is an intensely powerful force to be walking through life with.
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