June 21, 2016
2 min read

Parent-to-parent support program feasible for those with children with type 1 diabetes

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Within the setting of recently diagnosed childhood diabetes in the United Kingdom, the establishment and maintenance of a parent-to-parent support service is feasible in small- to medium-sized clinics, according to recent findings.

In the study, researchers assessed the feasibility of a Parents Listen Understand and Support (PLUS) program, a parent-to-parent support service for parents of children with type 1 diabetes. The researchers evaluated 11 parents of children with type 1 diabetes who were designated as mentor “link parents,” as well as nine parents of newly diagnosed children categorized as “recipient parents” recruited from three small- to medium-sized diabetes clinics in South Wales. Additionally, a parent advisory group was formed and included eight parents whose children attended a diabetes clinic in a neighboring health board.

The parent advisory group refined and reviewed components of the PLUS program, which was developed in conjunction with the chief investigator of U.S. studies. During a 12-month intervention, the link parents, who had previously undergone training, provided parental adjustment and coping support to the recipient parents for a maximum of 6 months. The intervention focused on providing informational, affirmational and emotional support. Four assessment domains were used to evaluate the program, including parental mental health, as measured by the five-question Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5); experience of living with diabetes, assessed by the Pediatric Inventory for Parents; empowerment as measured by the Family Empowerment Scale; as social support, evaluated by a single-item measure. The questionnaires were given at baseline and at the end of the study interval.

Based on individual interviews at the end of the study, the researchers found that link parents reported being motivated to become mentors by their own experience of support (or lack of support) upon first learning of their child’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis. They found the training process to be a positive and empowering experience, and allowed them to reflect on the progress they had made in terms of adjustment and coping. Mentoring content ranged from inquiries about coping with specific situations to overall daily life with diabetes.

The recipient parents reported that, overall, the program provided welcome support personalized to the parent or couple. Some of the anecdotes/lessons about link parents’ past experiences occasionally engendered anxiety about the future in recipient parents, but overall they found such information to be beneficial.
A post-intervention meeting with pediatric diabetes specialist nurses who implemented the program at clinics revealed that nurses considered PLUS to have provided additional support for parents; moreover, they reported that knowing the link parents added to their confidence in the intervention.

According to the researchers, these findings suggest that a parent-to-parent support program has excellent potential in providing support to parents of children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“The mentors valued taking part, and those parents of newly diagnosed children who elected to participate welcomed the support offered,” the researchers wrote. “There remain questions about the best timing, in terms of diagnosis, for peer support and the reasons why some parents might choose not to access it.” – by Jennifer Byrne

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant disclosures.