Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Diabetes Lifehacks.

One of the benefits of the DOC (diabetes online community) is that we get to share the tips and tricks that only a person really living with it would know, in an effort to make our diabetes management a little bit easier. It's group problem-solving at its finest: crowdsourced answers to common challenges.

To use another buzzword, a lifehack can be defined as an "uncommon solution to common problems", or "unusual ways of using everyday objects to make life easier".

Since Googling "diabetes lifehacks" didn't bring up much for me in the way of search results (although I did find this thread on TuDiabetes), I'm going to do what I can to fix that problem with this post.

(Important note: nothing here can be considered medical advice, and if you're unsure about something, check with your doctor first. Let's approach this as, "this is what I do" and not "this is what you should do". If you're sharing someone else's tip(s), please credit them!)

Here are some of the ones I'm aware of (and yeah, a lot of them are CGM and insulin pump-centric).

Wondering how to get Dexcom sensors to last longer? This is at least a two-part answer. The first part is getting the receiver to take readings again: you can either find "stop sensor" in your menu, or wait until the receiver tells you that the 7-day period has expired (and it stops taking readings on its own). After that sensor has "stopped", go back to your menu and select "start stensor". After another two-hour period, you can calibrate (by entering two fingerstick results) and continue on, with the receiver believing you're using a fresh sensor, when it really is the one you were already wearing.

The second part has to do with the actual adhesive - it's likely not going to stay stuck to you for a full seven days on its own. Use a medical tape like Opsite Flexifix (a DOC favorite), IV3000, or Tegaderm. Find tips here, here and here on how others use this tape.

If you have trouble remembering how long you've had your Dexcom sensor on, or when the 7-day expiration will happen, write the date and time of your sensor insertion on the sensor's packaging and hang onto it (this way you keep the sensor's serial number on hand too, in case you'd need it for calling Dexcom about sensor issues), or take a picture of it with your iPhone or similar device (the date you took the photo will be saved that way).

If you're pumping with a t:slim and wrestle with keeping tubing and the pump upright during a prime sequence, kitchen cabinet knobs are your friend.

Changing the battery out of an Animas Ping insulin pump without using a coin can still happen if you're wearing a medical ID bracelet.

If you need to disguise an insulin pump/CGM receiver/tube of glucose tabs under a dress, try making your own garter using thigh-high hose, sew a pocket into the dress, or maybe sport some stretchy shorts underneath. In a pinch? Baby sock + safety pin = you can wear your pump just about anywhere on your person.

Can't hear your Dexcom alarms while you're sleeping? The ol' glass and coins trick may work.

Remembering to grab all of the right insulin pump cartridge/site change-out parts become easier when you use small Ziploc bags for the parts. Especially helpful if you'll need to do a change-out away from home and tend to forget parts (cough, me, all the time) - just grab one baggie and one vial of insulin and you'll be good to go.

If you're on MDI (multiple daily injections) and don't want to mix up insulins whose packaging may be similar, use something like colored duct or washi tape around the outside of the vial (or pen!) to distinguish them. (You can also use washi tape to dress up a glucose meter!)

(Speaking of true hacking... check out this Dexcom DIY set-up for monitoring someone in another room. Whoa.)

Need a small sharps container while you're traveling? An empty glucose tab jar or eye makeup remover wipes container packs nicely.

Empty test strip tubes are also a good place to stash the used test strips in your meter kit - use a sticker on the lid (or marker on the labeling) to tell them apart.

Infusion sites can be dressed up with the help of a little nail polish and creativity:

Images courtesy of Amy Dooley; D-Momma to Lauren

What are your favorite diabetes lifehacks? Please share them in the comments section!


  1. Thanks for sharing my DIY garter tip! I just recently started using the Dexcom in a glass hack.

    I keep a "snack size" ziplock in my bag for used strips and recently put a paper grocery bag between the bed and my nightstand to catch the test strips from middle of the night tests since I was sick of cleaning blood dots off of the white table.

    A couple hacks for OmniPod users: if an alarming pod won't stop, put it in the freezer and it will quit. Baby oil will loosen the pods adhesive when you want to remove it easily (I assume this works with other adhesives too)

  2. OMG I love the decorated infusion sets! I may remember this for arm sites that have a tendency to hang out of my shorter sleeves! Even if I am far to old for such things :-)

  3. These are really great tips!

    A while ago I blogged about keeping a pre-packed bag (like cosmetic bag sized) ready with everything I need for a weekend away. http://www.bittersweetdiabetes.com/2013/06/travel-ready.html Actually, since posting this I've also added stuff for a second pump site change and my old (spare) pump to the bag. (It all just fits if I arrange it just so.) This way if I'm taking a short trip I know I have my supplies gathered and ready - no forgetting something at home. All I need to add is a bottle of insulin from the fridge. When I come back home, I restock the bag and tuck it away for next time.

  4. Minion! Ha!

    I think my favorite is that kitchen knob one. You're cool.

  5. Ooh...I just bought the tape...i usually use Tegaderm. Cant wait to try it out asap!

    xoxo from Trinidad

  6. Did you mean to call it "wasabi" tape? It's actually washi tape. Fun tips!

    1. I did! And my sushi-obsessed brain thanks you. :)

  7. I try to change my lancet every new bottle of strips. So that's one fresh lancet every 25 pokes. My friend Jenn took it a step further and added a new lancet to her test strip bottles ahead of time!

  8. I think the Dexcom adhesive is not a good as it was about six months ago. My husband is not doing anything different and it is barely lasting a week or it pulls off. This is very concerning to us since he is on Medicare and they do not recognize it as a medical necessity. I have ordered the I mentioned the Opsite Flexifix tape and hope it helps. Thanks for your informative and entertaining blog!

  9. Hi Kim, I love this post! We're talking about how to scale the sharing of tips like these if you want to join in: http://susannahfox.com/2014/02/10/hacking-home-health-care/ Essentially: how do we reach all the people who could benefit but don't read your blog, don't use Twitter, etc.?

  10. When I'm changing out my T:Slim, I stand the pump into a .50 cent Business card desktop thingie. When I'm not changing it out, I keep some Loyalty cards, seldom used credit cards in the holder.