Marleen Kunneman, Matthijs Graner, and Viet-Thi Tran
Even if care seems right from a medical perspective, if care doesn’t fit for each individual, we may ‘deliver care’ without actually ‘caring’. The recently published Making Care Fit Manifesto (1) states that for care to fit, care should be maximally responsive to patients’ unique situation and supportive to their priorities. Care should also be minimally disruptive to patients’ lives, loved ones, and social network. Making care fit requires patients (and their caregivers) and clinicians to collaborate, both in content and manner, and it is an ongoing and iterative process where care plans should continuously be evaluated and modified.
This is especially pertinent for young adults living with type 1 diabetes. Previous research showed that young adults with type 1 diabetes have relatively poor biomedical and psychosocial outcomes (2,3). For example, HbA1c levels are higher in younger adults compared to other age groups, and strikingly, they are also higher now than they were a decade ago (3).
At the same time, very little is known about what young adults do to implement diabetes care in their lives, and what price they have to pay in terms of negative effects on themselves and their surroundings. Also, how do we bridge what happens in their personal environment (‘point of life’) and what happens during clinical encounters (‘point of care’)? Because whatever is left undiscussed with their clinicians, is also left unconsidered when designing care plans.
We explored experiences of young adults with type 1 diabetes trying to make care fit into their lives. First, we asked 62 young adults with type 1 diabetes (Median age: 27, IQR 24 to 27, 80% women) from the French ‘Community of Patients for Research’ (ComPaRe) for their experiences with the burden of treatment. They reported a high burden4 of diabetes treatment (76.5 out of 150, IIQR 59 to 94). Importantly, 3 of every 4 young adults (74%) reported that their investment of time, energy, and efforts in healthcare is unsustainable over time. This is about twice as high as for other people with chronic conditions.
Second, the Dutch ééndiabetes foundation (for and by young adults with type 1 diabetes) asked its members for their experiences in making diabetes care fit into their lives. Nine of 25 young adults (36%) indicated that their diabetes care regularly or very often hinders their education, work, hobbies, leisure or social lives. When asked to describe their biggest efforts to fit diabetes care into their daily life, they responded:
“You want to live a fun and spontaneous life, but you have to nonstop keep an eye on your sugars.”
“Food. Everything you have to do then. That’s why I sometimes skip my meals.”
“Planning. Not just the hospital appointments and changing needles, but also planning with the energy I will or will not have.”
“Regulating hypo’s and then compensating for the time I couldn’t function well due to a hypo.”
“On time and constant planning ahead. What do I need? Do I have all my stuff before I leave? When do I have to place new orders to make sure I don’t run out?”
Additionally, we asked young adults what they do to fit diabetes care into their lives, but what they don’t discuss with their clinician. Some indicated they discuss “everything” or “nothing” with their clinician. Others said:
“I use a DIY loop. (I did tell my clinician but he wasn’t interested)”
“I delay my hospital appointments as long as I can.”
“I discuss everything about my diabetes with my clinician. All the better they can help me.”
“I bolus less to prevent hypos.”
Communication is key to bridge efforts of making care fit at the point of life and at the point of care. Our future work will focus on uncovering better ways to improve the quality of diabetes care through improving conversations. And to help young adults with their lifelong, daily and ongoing endeavor of making diabetes care fit.
- Kunneman M, Griffioen IPM, Labrie NHM, Kristiansen M, Montori VM, van Beusekom MM, Making Care Fit Working G. Making care fit manifesto. BMJ Evid Based Med. 2021.
- Johnson B, Elliott J, Scott A, Heller S, Eiser C. Medical and psychological outcomes for young adults with Type 1 diabetes: no improvement despite recent advances in diabetes care. Diabet Med. 2014;31(2):227-231.
- Redondo MJ, Libman I, Maahs DM, Lyons SK, SaracoM, Reusch J, Rodriguez H, DiMeglio LA. The Evolution of Hemoglobin A1c Targets for Youth With Type 1 Diabetes: Rationale and Supporting Evidence. Diabetes Care. 2021;44(2):301-312.
- Tran VT, Harrington M, Montori VM, Barnes C, Wicks P, Ravaud P. Adaptation and validation of the Treatment Burden Questionnaire (TBQ) in English using an internet platform. BMC Med. 2014;12:109.