So You’ve Found a Babysitter for Your T1D Child — Now What?
As any parent of a child (or multiple children) with Type 1 knows, there are very few breaks from the constant care and attention needed to manage this unruly disease.
Whether you are hiring a nanny full time or for an evening out, trading babysitting duties with another parent or cashing in a chip from a family member, there is an added layer of detail to impart and of course extra preparation (no shocker for T1Ds!) in order for everyone to feel confident.
1. Babysitting 101 vs Diabetes 101. Start with an experienced caregiver-someone who has taken care of a variety of children, whether a teenager or an adult. A level of experience will ensure you are only training them on the added responsibilities of caring for someone with Type 1 diabetes, not training them on babysitting and T1D. Finding someone with experience in both is a bonus — in the US try sittercity (specifying your location and special needs), which offers free and paid access or SafeSittings (a free service specializing in diabetes babysitting).
2. Meet ahead of time. Set a time to meet and train the babysitter ahead of their scheduled job, ideally with as few distractions as possible. Allowing an opportunity to education about Type 1, how to treat low and high blood sugars, meals and snacks, exercise, outings and how to be prepared. Be sure to allow time for questions that will give both of you confidence. Having the conversations in advance will give the caregiver time to absorb the information, which as you recall from diagnosis days is overwhelming. Knowing that the basics have been covered will make the transition from you to the caregiver much easier. Compensate the caregiver for their training time — either an hourly rate or a gift card or home-baked goods. Acknowledging that you are asking something additional other than the general safekeeping and care of your most prized possession will go a long way.
3. In terms of the really scary stuff, be straightforward and brief. You want to offer perspective of what truly constitutes a “get the red box” and “call 911” moment and also let them know how often that has actually happened. There should be quick, clear instruction — get it out there and then move on.
4. Give a bit of homework! Share specific resources that give the best big picture view and ask that they review after your initial training. This will further imprint the information. Two resources we recommend are our What is Type 1 Diabetes and from Welcome to Type 1, Diabetes Chalk Talk 2 that touch on hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia and how to treat both. Your task is to filter the information so the caregiver is informed but not overwhelmed. Keep it simple and don’t require too much time. Ask that they either email or call with any questions or have them prepared before their arrival to work, so you can quickly breeze through any necessary clarifications. Ideally, have the babysitter program your number in his or her cell phone so this step is done ahead of time. Offer to compensate them for their research time — this gesture will go a long way.
5. It’s game day — come prepared. You have asked the babysitter to come ready to play — so ensure you do the same. Prepare ahead of time clear simple written instructions with the basic information you would give to any babysitter:
- your contact information
- any instructions for working within your house (pets, tv or internet rules, expectations for tidying up, meals, bedtime)
- always include your address in a written location, birthdates and allergies for any children in case of calling emergency for any situation
6. Separately, include specific instructions for your child with Type 1. These should include:
- basic information about when to call you
- what specific numbers you consider to be “low” and “high”
- how to treat and what to do in case of an emergency
These should be posted somewhere central, like a cabinet front above a phone or desk or on the refrigerator. If they will be taking your child/children out, pack the bag ahead of time that includes low blood sugar supplies and include your phone number in the bag as well. Leave this bag by the door as an added visual cue.
7. Establish expectations about communication. In what situations do you want to be contacted or receive messages around diabetes concerns or in general? What are your expectations around response to your calls or texts? Ensure you all have the same game plan for the day/evening so that if there is a lag in communication time, your anxiety does not result in you racing home only to discover everyone was having a ball swimming and there was no phone floating nearby. Initially it may be helpful to set up a specific call in time — so you ensure there is a check in — as opposed to constantly waiting for the ring or buzz. Knowing all is well or helping to trouble shoot and then move on will allow both you and the caregiver to get on with whatever the task or event at hand may be.
8. Let it go. It is tough to walk out the door and hand off that responsibility to someone else, but you have secured someone for this job out of necessity (whether for work or a special occasion or for a moment of sanity and recharge), so let them do their job.
Read more on babysitting:
- Buzzing Bella by Samantha Willner
- The Nanny Diaries: Now I Understand by James Austin
- The Nanny Diaries: Managing Type 1 Across Two Households by James Austin
- The Sitter’s Checklist by Sara Jensen
- SafeSittings and How It All Began by Kimberly Ross