The Sitter’s Checklist
Caring for a child with Type 1 diabetes can be a new challenge for even the most experienced sitter. In addition to the normal care and challenges of babysitting, there are Type 1 considerations that are imperative know for the safety of the child. Don’t be discouraged though! Here are the three main things to know before the parents walk out the door.
Monitoring blood sugar
- The primary concern with Type 1 diabetics is keeping blood sugar within target levels — not too high or too low. Blood sugar changes over time as food is digested and sugar is depleted with activity.
- Type 1 diabetics typically track their sugar in one of two ways: through pinprick blood tests or through a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
- Continuous glucose monitors are devices that measure the blood sugar constantly, typically updating every 5 minutes. Have the parent show you the monitor and play you the alarm sounds when the child’s blood sugar goes outside the desired range.
- Pinprick blood tests are conducted by poking the tip of a finger with a lancet and feeding a drop of blood into a glucose meter. This is typically more accurate than a CGM. If the child does not have a CGM, ask the parents how often they want you to test. In addition, you may need to test based on the child’s behavior — low and high blood sugars can trigger altered mental states.
- You may need to test blood sugar while the child is sleeping as well.
Monitoring food intake
- The blood sugar of a Type 1 diabetic is affected by their carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates — or “carbs” — are found in many foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and sugars. Type 1 diabetics need to “count” those carbs to ensure that they are being given the correct amount of insulin. Under no circumstances should children in your care be allowed to eat unsupervised.
Administering insulin or sugar
- The parents may or may not ask you to administer insulin with food. Make sure you know the carb count of any food you are serving the child and the appropriate amount of insulin to give for it.
- Insulin is administered in one of two ways: through injection, or through a device known as an insulin pump.
- Injections are given either with a syringe or an insulin pen. In both cases, the dose of insulin is loaded into the tool and injected into a fatty part of the body — typically stomach, arms, buttocks or thighs.
- Insulin pumps provide insulin through a device that is affixed to the body. They can be programmed with a specific dose of insulin for a meal and also deliver small doses throughout the day to keep blood sugar stable.
- In addition, in case of low blood sugar you will need to provide the child a boost of carbs orally — usually in the form of candy or juice. The parents will inform you of the amount of carbs to treat lows.
Make sure before the parents leave that you are comfortable with your responsibilities in taking care of their Type 1 child. In addition, the parents should have an emergency plan in place. It is vital that you obey that emergency plan to the letter.
Read more on the positive impact of babysitting in Buzzing Bella by Samantha Willner