Type 1 Diabetes Decoded

March 8, 2019

Maureen Mahoney attributed her weight loss, fatigue and thirst to a busy work schedule, hectic holidays and the stress of moving her parents into her home. She quickly learned that wasn’t the case when her doctor had the police track her down at a holiday party to make sure she got to the hos­pital immediately. Her lab results showed a blood sugar level of almost 700 (90 to 160 is normal and anything over 300 is dangerous). Maureen had developed adult-onset type 1 diabetes.

After four days at a hospital near her home in Mendham, New Jersey, Maureen was ready to learn to manage the disease. She knew of no one in her family with diabetes or any chronic disease, so she faced an overwhelming challenge of managing appointments, education, equipment and medication.

“A colleague told me about Casey Singley [RN], a care coordinator for chronic care, so I called her,” says Maureen, who is a Hackensack Meridian Health team member serving as associate general counsel in the network’s legal department. “She understands type 1 diabetes and knows what is required when an adult suddenly develops it.”

In addition to helping Maureen schedule multiple physician appointments, Casey was instrumental in making sure Maureen had the most up-to-date insulin pump for her needs and the right medica­tion. “Casey is always there to answer questions, find information and help me understand how to manage my diabetes,” Maureen says. “Her support allowed me to do my job and take care of my family, because I don’t have to spend hours on the phone trying to orchestrate my care.”

Casey describes her role as “helping take the frustration out of the process of managing a chronic condition.” While she taught Maureen how to check blood sugar levels and interpret results, Casey also referred her to the MOLLY Diabetes Education/Management Center for Adults and Chil­dren at Hackensack University Medical Center for additional support. “Referral to a hospital and community programs is an important part of my job because I am aware of programs that newly diagnosed patients may not know,” she says.

Care coordinators like Casey are located in primary care physician offices that are part of Hackensack Meridian Health Partners and are tasked with helping patients navigate the many tasks needed to get care. Care coordinators are located in specific areas of hospitals, such as surgi­cal departments and cancer units, that also provide similar support for patients with those specific needs. “My main goals are to help people learn how to manage their condition long-term and to keep them to their optimal level of health,” Casey says.

Detecting Type 1 Diabetes in Adults

Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in children or teens, but it can start in adults, too. Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes share many of the same symptoms, but one distinguishing factor is that adults with type 1 diabetes are typically in a healthy weight range. Your doctor can run specific tests to determine which type you may have, ensuring you get the proper treatment.

If you need support managing diabetes, make an appointment with an endocrinologist near you.