If your children are living with a chronic health problem like diabetes, asthma, depression or anxiety, or epilepsy, it’s important they know how to get the care they need when they’re away from home. Whether they’re headed to summer camp or going away to school, there are steps you should take well before they leave home to prepare them to manage their chronic health problem and stay as healthy as possible.
How to help your child be prepared
As your children get older and better able to be active participants in their care, make sure they have the information and resources they need to manage their condition as effectively as possible.
- Help them understand their condition. Your child should know when he or she was diagnosed, what the potential complications of the condition are, and what the early symptoms of complications are, for example, feeling shaky and irritable or having a rapid heart rate if they’re diabetic and their blood sugar is too low. They should also know the dosages and schedule for any medications they take regularly.
- Make sure their comprehensive medical record is easily accessible to any treating doctor. Before your child goes away, you should make sure a complete medical record is put together and includes information from all the specialists your child sees for his or her chronic health problem, as well as the records from the primary care physician. The record should include all medications, any surgeries or other treatments, records from hospitalizations, and allergies. It can also be helpful to include any treatment or action plans your child’s physician has developed for managing the condition or dealing with emergencies. A health advisor can help you build a secure electronic universal medical record so your child’s medical records are instantly accessible when needed.
- Connect with on-campus or other on-site medical services. If your child is headed to college, arrange for you and your child to meet with campus health services to familiarize them with your child’s condition and to make a connection so your child knows who to turn to if he or she needs care or a referral to a local specialist. For children going away to camp, find out how medical care is provided and meet with the camp physician or nurse practitioner. It’s also useful for your child to share basic information about his or her condition with roommates so they know what to do if your child has an emergency.
- Get your college-bound child a local physician. It can be very helpful for your child to have a physician who has experience caring for people with the condition he or she faces, whether that’s a pulmonologist for a child with severe asthma or a psychiatrist to provide therapy and any needed prescription medications for depression or anxiety. You can check with your insurance provider to find a physician, ask college health services for a recommendation, or get connected with experienced specialists through a health advisory service.
- Encourage healthy habits. Eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, managing stress, and avoiding alcohol and drug abuse are important for every student, but it can be especially vital for those living with a chronic health problem. Do what you can to support your child living a healthy lifestyle, whether it’s encouraging him or her to take a yoga class or sending care packages that include healthier snack options. It’s also important that your child have all appropriate vaccinations to lower the risk of diseases that can make his or her chronic health problem worse.
With the right preparation and support, you’re not only helping your children be healthier and safer at school or camp, you’re also helping them learn to care and advocate for themselves as they become independent young adults.