Ready for an Insulin Pump?

Insulin Pumps: Things to consider regarding insulin pumps

Michelle MacPhee
D-Mom, M.S. (Psychology)

At first glance, an insulin pump may seem like the answer to all your diabetes frustrations… no more shots? Sign me up! But like any other diabetes management approach, insulin pumps have both pros and cons. To make sure that your child/teen will be safe, will have a positive pumping experience, and will benefit from the choice to pump their insulin, it's wise to make sure that you, your child/teen, and your family as a whole are ready for this change. 

You can start your self-assessment by answering for yourself the following questions:

  • Has your child/teen had diabetes for long enough to be ready for this transition? Will adapting to this next change cause too much stress at this time?

Some physicians recommend waiting at least one year post-diagnosis before starting pump therapy; some physicians are willing to start much sooner, if pump therapy seems to be a good match for a particular family.

  • Is your child/teen seen at least once a year by a diabetes health care team? Does your family consult them as necessary?
  • Are both you and your child/teen interested in an insulin pump?
  • Do you or your child accurately count carbs, or consistently follow a meal plan?
  • Do you analyze blood glucose results regularly and make appropriate adjustments?
  • Does your teen allow you (her parents) to help with her diabetes management?
  • (For younger children) Do you have a plan for blood glucose monitoring and pump operation when your child is out of your care (school; day care)?
  • Are you and your child/teen prepared to spend at least 3 days in pump education sessions, plus frequent phone/email contact for 1 month? Is your family ready for the learning curve, willing to learn new skills and routines?
  • Do you and your child/teen have realistic expectations regarding what a pump can and will do, in terms of quality of life and effective blood glucose management? Does pumping fit with your family’s lifestyle and blood glucose management goals?
  • Can you afford the cost of pump supplies? If not, does your province have government funding for them, or do you have private health care insurance to cover the cost of pump therapy? (Initial cost of $6000-7000, with ongoing monthly pump supply costs of $400-500 or more).

More on Pump Funding:

The following steps may also be helpful for exploring whether an insulin pump fits your family:

1. Clarify Your Expectations.

“Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.”              

-L.M Montgomery

While an insulin pump offers much more than “nothing”, it is worth asking yourself: What do you hope to gain from insulin pump therapy? To throw out all the rules of effective diabetes management? To eliminate diabetes frustration? To do less work and get better blood glucose results? If so, you may want to re-examine whether an insulin pump will do all you expect it to do.

This self-assessment tool: “Is Insulin Pump Therapy Right for Me?” (formerly from the Animas Canada website) can help you explore whether your expectations are realistic.

We also suggest that you speak with your child’s diabetes health care team about what you – and your child – hope to achieve with insulin pump therapy.

2. Review the pros and cons of insulin pump therapy.

Are there any pros that encourage you? Any cons that discourage you? Discuss them with your child’s diabetes health care team; gather enough information to make an informed decision.

Tip from the Trenches

My son has been using an insulin pump for over 10 years now, but I still remember those first six months, when my husband and I would have gladly thrown the pump in the nearest large body of water, if our son had not been so in love with it! There was a lot to learn initially, and his blood glucose management did not improve much at first. But the improvement in his quality of life was instant and rewarding. Now I can honestly say we would be hard-pressed to go back to injections. ~Michelle

3. Explore the different insulin pump companies in Canada.

Research your options. Find out what insulin pumps are currently available and what their key features are. Attend a virtual information session offered by the pump company. Chat with the sales rep: hold that pump in your hand, press some buttons, get a feel for what their pump has to offer. 

4. Discuss pumping with your child or teen.

What do they want? What are they worried about? What are they willing to do to make pumping successful? A transition to pumping works best when the child/teen who will be wearing the pump is on board with the decision. A kid who feels powerless because of a decision made by his parents will often find a way to undermine that decision.

  • The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.