Starting College: Managing Chronic Conditions Away from Home

Students starting college away from home for the first time have a lot on their plates. When you add food allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, adrenal insufficiency, or any other chronic medical condition or health concern to the mix, it becomes a much bigger challenge. Most kids have never had to take any responsibility for things such as ordering their own medication(s), picking them up from the pharmacy, making their own doctor’s appointments or handling any in-school accommodation requests that their condition(s) require. These things have, for the most part, been handled by parents. There are things that both parents and students can do to prepare the student for managing his/her condition(s) away from home for the first time.

Ways that Parents Can Help Their Kids

As a parent, it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking to send your child off to college for the first time. When your child has a chronic condition, it can be especially stressful. You play an important role in helping your child to become responsible for managing his/her own condition(s). There are ways that you can help him/her to get started.

Start the year before college.This will likely help to make these essential tasks less overwhelming for your child.During your child’s senior year of high school, here are a few things to consider having your child do in order to start to take charge of their condition(s):

  • managing medications
  • refilling prescription(s)
  • scheduling doctor’s appointments
  • self-advocating at the doctor

You may also help your child make this transition by suggesting s/he:

  • Set cellphone reminders for medication or self-check times throughout the day
  • Set calendar alerts for ordering medication(s)
  • Set a monthly or weekly (As needed) calendar alert to check expiration dates of medications
  • Set calendar alerts both for making and attending doctors’ appointments
Black Stealth Medical ID Bracelet-Stainless Steel

Ways Students Can Help Themselves

As a student living with a chronic condition, not only do you have to worry about juggling your class schedule and extracurriculars, you now have to manage your condition(s) on your own. There are several things you can do to help yourself in this new stage of your life:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the student health center and schedule an appointment there to establish care. Ask them if there is anyone on staff is specially trained to treat your condition(s). Provide them with a copy of your medical records so they will know exactly how your condition(s) are being managed. Find out who to contact after hours and locate the nearest hospital in the event of an emergency.
  2. It’s also important to create an action plan. List the symptoms to be aware of, what to do in the event of an emergency, where your rescue medications are located, and who to call in the event of an emergency. Share this action plan with your roommate(s) as well as your dorm staff. You may also want to consider sharing this plan with your professors as well, should this be relevant for your particular condition(s).
  3. If you don’t currently wear it, wear medical alert jewelry. Make sure that it lists your name, your condition(s), your medications(s) and your emergency contact information. You are in a new environment where most of the people around you don’t know about your condition(s). Wearing a medical ID will add an extra layer of protection, providing a helpful tool for prompt treatment to be provided in the event of an emergency.

Have you recently transitioned to college life? Share your tips and ideas with us in the comments below! 

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