Adult child (21) will not take care of Type 1 diabetes

This evening my 21 year old son was taken to the ER by ambulance. This will be his 8th time in the hospital with ketoacidosis. Two of those times he was on life support. He refuses to take proper care of himself. He never tests his blood sugar, does not eat the right foods and drinks as much pop/soda as he can get his hands on ( I swear I think the pop is an addiction) . He cares about nothing. He has lived with me multiple times while I tried to help him get his life together , such as getting a job. Never happens always an excuse why he cant get one or find one. He finally did get into job Corp. I was so excited, but he has since been let go from Job Corp because they were constantly having to take him to the er because he was not taking care of his diabetes. He’s killing his self. I had to put me foot down and tell him he was not allowed to come back to live with me . He went to live with grandmother, who is the one who just had to call the ambulance.

His grandmother is now not allowing him to come back to live with her because he will not take care of his diabetes and is still full of excuses why he can not get a job.
Side note my son has a 1 1/2 year old little girl that lives with her mother and I help take care of. My son is killing himself and I feel there is nothing else I can do. I have had him admitted to a mental hospital but he told them what they wanted to hear and was out in two weeks.

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Hi, Melissa @Walke29,

During my many years of practice (as a neuropsychologist) I would sometimes encounter situations like you have described. I don’t know you or your son, so I can’t make comments specific to his/your situation. But I will offer this - there are some situations that are just to difficult for family members to have any impact. This is often the case with people who are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, people who have gambling problems, as well as people who simply will not take care of a chronic illness.

Then what do family members do? The best they can do is to “insulate” themselves from the negative effects of the chronically-ill person’s behavior. Family members are better off if they continue to insist that the affected person work with her/his treatment team and then limit their contact with the affected person. Let the treatment team “own the battle.”

If the affected person is ever able to turn things around, then the family can cautiously “re-engage” with the person. But until that day comes (if it does) the family members are better off to “insulate” themselves from the “chaos.”

I feel certain you have heard this before. Sorry I don’t have anything better to offer.

Good luck!

Bill

I greatly appreciate your response. To an extent, yes I’ve heard this before, but I appreciate your detail. I just need to know that I’ve left no stone unturned, so to speak. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to watch my child as he slowly kills himself. In a sense I guess I’m trying to prepare myself as I pray everyday that God can help him turn it all around. Thanks again.

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hi @Walke29 Melissa, if it is any consolation at all. I ignored and did the minimum possible with diabetes for 20 years, until I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I put family and friends through very bad times. It wasn’t anything that anyone did or said that made me change, it was my own acceptance. 20 years worth of “killing myself” didn’t actually kill me.

please take care of yourself and your self-esteem in these difficult times. Your son is an adult; you didn’t cause this, you can’t cure it, and you can’t control it in him.

Than you so much for your response. I’m happy you were finally able to things around. It’s been very hard for me to step back and to stop making sure his dr appointments are made , making sure he doesn’t run out of insulin…etc. Not allowing him to live with me has been difficult because He has run out of places to live. Bouncing from one house to another and now no place to go when he leaves the hospital. We are trying to get a social worker involved before he leaves the hospital in hopes they can offer suggestions for living arrangements among other things. I will continue to keep health insurance on him so he can get his insulin & go to his doctor appointments. Past that I’ve realized I can’t keep going through the heart ache. I’m stepping back and he will now have to be responsible for his life. I pray his mind set changes and he will make the decision to care. Thank you for your story and insight, it means a lot.

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Hi Melissa @Walke29, I know you are going through a rough time with worries, but as two very aware and knowledgeable gentle men have said that the decision is with your son. As a parent and grandparent I’ve gone out of my way to “be there” and assist and 55 or so years ago I completely disregarded my diabetes until something happened and I snapped out of it. Yes, I always took an injection of crude insulin every morning just because I felt very crappy on the few days I missed, but I went several years without seeing a doctor and never had a blood sugar test - in those days BS testing was done only in hospital labs. Yes, the light went on in my head and for the last 50 years I cared!

As for your son not having a place to live, suggest that he could return to your home as long as he followed “the rules” - first failure on his part he gets thrown out. “The Rules”, your rules and the doctor’s orders PLUS he must read, study and learn.

Thank you so much for your response. Sadly, that was the deal I made with my son the last two times he’s moved in with me. Also, the same deal his grandmother made with him when he moved in with her 2 weeks ago. He was there one week before she had to call an ambulance. Unfortunately he tells you what you want to hear to let him back in and then continues this destructive behavior. He has agreed to talk with a psychiatrist while he’s in the hospital, I hope speaking with a psychiatrist is something he will continue to do.

I am sharing my exsperience because the feeling of no hope did me in. I would do everything the Dr would give me for about 3 weeks then realize this isn’t doing what they said it will do. I always had unexplained high and lows even on stricked diets in the hospital. I was one that didn’t sit still I was always on the move. The problem was I couldn’t predick if my bg would go high or low. I tried diets I tried different meds. They finally came out with lantus and that changed my whole life. So I they put me on lantus and novolog. And I could get my a1c down to a 9 if I gave up my life and sat around and did hardly anything. I went from monthly ER visits to going about once a year. Until I finally stopped having them except when I was sick. About 5 years ago I started having heart attacks and strokes.
Anxiety
behavior change similar to being drunk
blurred vision
cold sweats
confusion
depression
difficulty with thinking
dizziness or lightheadedness
drowsiness
excessive hunger
fast heartbeat
headache
irritability or abnormal behavior
restless sleep
seizures
shakiness
slurred speech
tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or tongue
dryness of the mouth
fast or weak pulse
increased thirst
irregular heartbeat
loss of appetite
mood or mental changes
muscle cramps or pain
nausea
skin rash or itching over the whole body
sweating
trouble breathing
unusual tiredness or weakness
vomiting
The Dr just blamed it on my non control of diabetes. I have been taking novolog for 20 years and I would of never noticed the side effects if it wasn’t for my family telling me how I was acting. I had to do the research and figure it on my own. Since I have got off novolog I only have a hand full of those symptoms and my bg is way more tighter I am currently on humilin R threw 670g insulin pump.maybe my story will give your son the hope he might need.

You are living one of my biggest fears, my 6yo was just diagnosed and I worry about the future all the time, we’re lucky to be on Medicaid now but I worry about as an adult him not taking care of himself or being one of the many stuck where they can’t afford insurance but make too much for Medicaid. Do you mind if I ask what age he was diagnosed? I feel for u I live in anxiety of the day I’m in your shoes I hope things get better. I have a 21 Yo too and he doesn’t have t1d but he’s difficult Im not looking forward too the teens and adult years.

I’ve been diabetic for 21 years now I was diagnosed when I was only 8 back in the 90s . He is the only one that has the will power to change having this disease isnt easy one bit it’s very even for those that do have it under control I went thro that stage of not caring and did what I want when I was in my teens always being high did and ate what I wanted rarely ever checked my sugars. But at one point I snapped and started to care again for what he is doing can lead to long term problems that will put him more in a situation he doesn’t want to be in because it can cause him his life sadly he needs your support more then every and stand behind him he may he want to go to support groups for diabetes

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Hi @Walke29. I was diagnosed at 3 years old in 19 62 and am doing well. I saw you had gotten some input from a professional so this is coming from “Dr. Phil” (no offense intended to the man). I’ve seen that some people with diabetes don’t want others to see them doing the things we need to do to care for ourselves: fingersticks, injections or pump boluses, calculating carbs when we eat, stopping for a snack, etc… Some people simply don’t want others to know they are diabetic (or have diabetes, if you prefer that term). Unfortunately the drama that results from not caring for themselves is more than would be caused by going through those steps. If that’s the case is illogical and irrational - no offense to your son, I’m speaking very broadly.
Another thought is that he is depressed: emotionally due to having the condition, or perhaps he is suffering from clinical depression which, at age 21, he must be willing to address himself, with love and sort from family and friends. But if he is emotionally depressed due to the diagnosis it might help him to know that while he does have a lifelong disease (do far) that can have complications, he may be walking amongst them without realizing it because they are managing the condition and living fulfilling lives. There are diabetics in music and professional and otherwise competitive athletics (including some Olympic participants); ones who have figured out how to manage their sugars so they can engage in mountain climbing and other feats of endurance; parents (which perhaps should be in the endurance category); and simply live from day to day enjoying what they like to do. Perhaps sharing that may make a dent. If he has hobbies and interests maybe those can be an incentive for him to take care of himself with the idea in mind that yes, although he does have diabetes, it dues not necessarily have to stop him from doing the things he loves, if he is willing to put in the work. I know this may sound massive but you never knew what might hit home. Wishing you the best.