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October 23, 2016
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Hoarders - the Diabetes Edition

If last night's DSMA chat was anything to go by, everyone who has lived with diabetes for any amount of time has a stash of outmoded, outdated, expired, and/or obsolete glucometers (and sometimes pumps, pens, and CGMs as well). Why do we keep these personal museums of diabetes history? There are a number of possibilities — some personal, some logistical, and some because of the way our states, counties, and municipalities deal with discardable medical equipment and hazardous medical waste.

Many of us keep one or two backups in case our main meters get lost or forgotten; we keep a meter by our bedside, in our workplace, in our car, in our pockets and handbags. Most of our "spare" meters are the same make and model of our "main" meters, or at least they use the same strips — but if we depend on "free" meters or the meters that our medical insurance covers, we may find ourselves changing from One Touch meters to Accu-Chek meters and back again, holding the previous meter "just in case" next year's policy changes to a previous year's meter. Others of us "test drive" new meters to find if they are more accurate, easier to use, or if their associated sofware better fits our needs and our lifestyles. Still others of us receive an endless stream of new meters as Medicare and Medicaid delivery services introduce the latest generation of inexpensive "talking", "painless" meters.

That only counts for the current generation of one's meters, and maybe a couple of devices back. Three, four, maybe even five meters — not the entire closet's-worth that many of our Tweeters alluded to. For some of us, where we've come from helps put our current health (and A1cs) in perspective. For others, the questions are more "how" and "whether" to discard the discarded and deprecated equipment. It's not as straightforward as it sounds.

While some "durable medical equipment", like blood pressure cuffs, can be tossed in the regular trash (or the electronic recycling bins, depending on your locality), glucometers are unique in that many retain traces of our blood. Because of this, we may be required to follow special disposal procedures similar to those we follow for our sharps, syringes, pens, and test strips.

For some of us, there's the rub: finding the appropriate procedures, getting to the municipal or county collection spots when they are open (or even at all), and concerns about the questions we might get. Any of these can throw a spanner in the works of getting the "Hoarders" quantity of obsolete diabetes equipment out of our homes and into somewhere where our blood (and strip reagent residues) won't harm another person, plant, or animal, and where the deteriorating parts won't leach toxins into our water tables or otherwise pollute our environment.

Until we can get these diabetes artifacts safely out of our homes, the myriad personal "Museums of Our Diabetes" will persist.

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