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UMass Helps Families Coping with Diabetes

Saturday, May 12, 2012


For children with diabetes and their parents, coping with the chronic disease can be difficult, but thanks to UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Family Diabetes Day parents can become educated on how to help their child with this disease.

“We’re hoping to bring families together whose children have diabetes,” said Lisa Bunacz who works with Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center at UMass. “There’s a lot of work that goes into taking care of someone with diabetes. There’s also a lot changing in the world of diabetes.”

She and Kim Johnson are two members of the UMass community helping organize and publicize the event that will include informative talks for parents, siblings, and children as well as carnival games and opportunities for parents to vent about the difficulties of coping with this lifelong illness. The event will take place today, Saturday, May 12th.

“We’re going to be emphasizing what we call survival skills – basic info, info you need to go home and get started. Many times when families find out their child is diabetic, they are admitted to the hospital,” Bunacz said. She and Johnson highlighted the difficulties that come for children coping with the illness. “Because they’ve kids, they’re growing, they’re in a developmental stage, diabetes changes like that.”

“It’s a lot of work to take care of a child with diabetes day to day. This event gives them new info and lets them meet other people going through the same thing. They don’t feel so alone. We want to help them keep going.”

Helping Parents and Children

Bunacz and Johnson knows that when it comes to a family dealing with a chronic illness, there are many hurdles. Family Diabetes Day is there to ease these difficult moments and give everyone a break.

“We want to bring families together so they can network. We want them to be able to get together with other children with diabetes and to not feel so alone,” she said. Their event will be targeted at helping create a cohesive bond between families and children.

“It’s very different when it’s a child. Our primary goal is to keep the kids healthy – to keep diabetes in control. We want them to experience their childhood the same as other kids. Let kids be kids,” Bunacz said.

While children often face isolation and feelings of exclusion when growing up with a chronic disease, parents are also faced with their own set of challenges.

“When parents have with a child with chronic illness, especially with diabetes, there are lots of hands-on things they need to do. It gives them time to share with other parents. For any parent with a child with a chronic illness there’s a grieving process,” Bunacz said. “This allows them to vent and share some of that experience with others who are sharing the same experience.”

Going Strong

The event is in its second year, and Johnson and Bunacz plan for it to be an annual occurance. Last year, there were 76 participants, and they are hoping for more this year.

Talks this year are set up to help teens, children, and parents. Some of the programs include: "Coping with Diabetes Burnout," "Apples to Zucchini – Food Games for Kids," and "What Does a Cure Look Like For You?"

“Hopefully they’re going to take away some new knowledge,” Bunacz said. Last year, a parent approached her. Her child had been living with diabetes for five years. “She told me that when the flier came out, she wondered if she should go. Parents can get complacent and think they may have heard everything. She said she was a seasoned parent but left feeling reenergized and rejuvenated.”

Family Diabetes Day will take place at the UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Faculty Conference room from 8:30 am – 2 pm on Saturday, May 12th. To register call 508-334-5165. 


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