There is no good age to have a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Each age presents different challenges. My girls were young, 3 and 3 and a half, when they were diagnosed. How do we as parents find baby sitters to watch our girls with T1D? That’s about as much fun as riding in a car with a laughing hyena. It’s not fun and it’s nothing to laugh about. It’s a serious matter, but if you take some prudent steps you will find a pool of sitters to meet your needs.
Let me share some tips:
The first order of business is finding sitters that will be comfortable watching a child with type 1. Once you find that person you have to be sure you have to be comfortable with them and your child is comfortable with them. We’ll call it a three way street.
Second, ask for honest responses. Tell people it’s ok to say no. I remember asking an old college mate if she could babysit. I didn’t give any detailed information and got the, “I’m afraid of needles” response. I should have told her she would only need to check blood sugars and not dose the girls with insulin. It was an excuse because she really didn’t want to tell me that she didn’t want to do it. If I would have said it was ok to say no upfront, and that no shots would be needed, it would’ve been easier for both of us.
A good source for sitters are family members, however, don’t expect them to offer or feel obligated to do it because they’re family. It is OK to ask them but they have to want to do it. If they can’t do it out of love for their niece/nephew/grandson/granddaughter, what are you getting? If they are doing it to repay you for the few times you watched their child or helped them, that’s what you’re getting, a payback. I don’t think that return on investment is what you’re looking for, if you know what I mean. If the undying commitment to the child is not there from family, I would shy away or proceed with caution.
We had a family member watch our older d-daughter once. Why only once? She was not comfortable, we were not comfortable, and neither was our d-daughter. At the time we only had one child with T1D. She only had to watch the kids for under 2 hours, but she ended up giving glucose tablets to our daughter who had a high BG when she checked it. Why did she do that? She listened to our oldest who told her to give the glucose tablets. The instructions my wife left with her were ignored. That was over 3 years ago and she has not watched the girls since. To be frank, she was not comfortable, and did not listen. I’m not slamming her, it is, however, the brutal truth!
For us, a great source for baby sitters has been college and high school age students that we know or know their parents. If you know them, or their parents, there is a built-in level of comfort. Be sure to talk with the parents first, like my wife and I did. My wife had a relationship with a few families that resulted in finding 2 of our sitters. Make sure you only let them do what they are comfortable with because they will be overwhelmed if you throw too much at them at once. We use our 2 sitters for evening’s mostly, not overnight care since we feel that’s a bit much to ask, though I’m sure they could do it.
Friends are another source. Some will run the other way but others will step up and ask. If they offer or want to learn, take them up on it; remember they asked! Have them over for dinner/lunch and let them learn firsthand how to do d-care. Remember another key, when you first learned diabetes care, you were overwhelmed and they might be the same so, again, give them what they can handle. Since it is necessary to have glucagon on hand, practice with an expired one (if you have it). This will ease the fear involved in learning how to use one of those bad boys!
A goldmine is other d-families! We had another d-couple watch our girls and it was really nice. We dropped the girls off and said, “here are the meters and what time do you want us back”. They even took them out for ice cream. Oh by the way, the girl’s blood sugar numbers looked awesome too! In my mind they walk on water. However, if you do find a d-couple, don’t wear them out. They deal with the same stress of raising a child with diabetes too. A great suggestion is to exchange babysitting with them if possible.
Help your sitters out by giving them typed out, detailed instructions or cheat sheets. My wife makes them easy to understand. Just because your sitter has a child with diabetes or has diabetes themselves doesn’t mean they understand your child’s pump, meter, and CGM. These instructions will serve as a good mental crutch and will build confidence. Tell them it’s ok to test a lot, within reason. That will further the confidence and build real experience in seeing blood sugar trends. Also, leave them with fresh insulin and good CGM sensors, if possible. Put them in the best situation to succeed.
This may sound silly, but it’s not, praise them! They just dealt with a disease that, on many occasions, has kicked my butt, your butt, and a long list of butts. If they had a great time, praise them! If they had a hard time praise them! Diabetes in children is serious and just because they had a hypo or a high is nothing to lose your confidence over.
Did my wife and I have fear in leaving our girls with babysitters? Of course we did! If you find some people with the right frame of mind, who take diabetes care seriously, you will be a little more at ease. Take the time to find them. Contact your local JDRF and ADA offices for help if you need to find people. Take time to train them in a thoughtful manner. It won’t be easy to find sitters, but they are out there.
You need to find some d-sitters. You have time and activities where you’ll need a one or two. Take time for yourself, for a date, for an event, or time with friends to enjoy life. Diabetes is hard, stressful, and you deserve a break. Finding a good d-sitter can help a lot.
Here are a few links for further resources on baby-sitting diabetes:
By Tim Brand
Creator/Writer at Bleedingfinger.com