Diabetes Education & Camping Association
12557 New Brittany Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33907
Yes, all camps have dietitian’s dietitians that handle dietary issues and meal planning. No parent should worry about special dietary needs such as celiac, lactose intolerance or peanut allergies. These questions will be part of the application process, but do not be afraid to call and discuss this with the team.
Yes, healthcare teams at diabetes camp (endocrinologists, diabetes educators, nurses) supervise and closely monitor campers on insulin pumps.
Most camps ask parents not to send any food items. Snacks and low treatment supplies of various kinds are available throughout camp and used according to specific policies and protocols.
Most resident camps provide all diabetes supplies, but you should call ahead to make sure that this is the case. Some day programs do not provide diabetes supplies. The camp paperwork should give specific instructions.
Diabetes education at camp happens in a variety of ways. Teachable moments occur throughout the camp day – i.e. when a child has a low blood sugar from swimming and chats with a counselor about how to treat it – and during diabetes activities, created over decades of fun by diabetes camps everywhere. Professionals will sometimes do special topic discussions, too. It’s a mix of active learning, spontaneous education and planned instruction – at diabetes management times and throughout the day.
Because camp can be more active than home for many children (just walking to the dining hall is a lot farther than walking to the dining room – plus constant activities), camps may suggest a small reduction in insulin dose. Speak with the healthcare team about your child’s activity level at home and whether you feel this is appropriate.
Standardly, most camps check blood glucose before breakfast, mid-morning, before lunch, mid-afternoon, before dinner, before bedtime and at 2 AM, if blood glucose at bedtime is below a certain standard set by the healthcare team and/or the parents.
Target blood sugar ranges should be decided by the healthcare team, the camper and the camper’s parents.
Preparing your child and your family for diabetes camp is one of the most important aspects of the positive experience! Most camps have a visiting day before the season opens when you can visit with the entire family, learn the camp routine, meet staff and other campers and see the facility. Camp is fun and staff are trained to ease the transition. Utilize them if your child seems abnormally apprehensive. Call the Camp Director for tips. Talk with your child about the camp experience, about meeting new friends with diabetes. Focus on the fun activities of camp, show them the camp brochure, read books with a flashlight under the covers at home and “play camp” before you even get there!
While homesickness does not “feel” good, it is a normal part of transitioning into independence and leaving the familiarity of home. At camp, we accept homesickness and are well-equipped to deal with it. It is much harder for the parents than it is for the campers and staff. Typically, by the third day of camp, homesickness has subsided and campers have adjusted to their new routine, new friends and staff members. Typically, in the rare event that homesickness affects your child in an atypical way, the Camp Director will be in contact with parents to discuss options for a positive outcome.
Parents getting “childsick” – meaning you miss your child so much you can hardly eat or sleep – is more common than campers being homesick. After all, they are having a blast with new friends while you are at home worrying about their safety, whether they are fitting in, whether camp is taking care of their diabetes, whether they remembered to bolus, and so on. Don’t worry – we got it! Go out for dinner, go to a movie. Rest, relax. This is your time for respite. You deserve it. It’s okay to take time for yourself. The reunion is a few days away.
Most camps do not encourage or allow parents to call campers during the session and most diabetes camps (because of the short sessions) do not have visiting days. One of the most important aspects of camp is to allow youth to form a social group, where they make friends that last a lifetime and form bonds with others that will carry them through great, and perhaps not so great, times. When parents disturb that bonding time, it can interrupt the development of that social experience. Plus, having phones all over camp is disruptive. And, before cell phones, most camps only had one or two phone lines. It’s a short session. And a little time away is a good thing. It builds independence.
DECA recommends that all camps follow American Camp Association standards for healthcare delivery. This means that they have a fully equipped healthcare center. Diabetes camps are super-stocked with diabetes supplies donated by our industry partners. Healthcare staff work 24 hours (resident camps) or full time (day camps) to ensure your child has access to every healthcare need. All camps have policies and procedures for this and for emergencies and off-site emergency care, if necessary.
Check-in is different at every camp, but be prepared to spend a few hours meeting with your child’s counselors and members of the healthcare team. A healthcare intake is required by most states. And, you will have the specific opportunity to speak with a healthcare team member about your child’s diabetes. You want to make sure that the camp has all the information necessary to make the camp experience safe and positive for your child.
Many camps have a list of parents who are willing to talk to new parents about camp. Check with your child’s camp to see if this is possible or visit the GLU Forum.