Babysitters, however, do not. We can sometimes forget that, just because we live, eat, and breathe diabetes every day... most other people, especially those with no other hands-on experience managing the disease, don't know the in's and out's of this disease.
A friend of mine had contacted me a couple of months ago, asking for help with this. She had basic knowledge of what Type 1 Diabetes was, because of the uncountable number of hours she and I had talked about Lenny's blood sugars, both day and night. She had taken on the responsibility of babysitting a type 1 diabetic child that lived close to her, full-willed and ready to learn whatever she needed to learn, to care for this child to the best of her abilities. She had no prior experience with this, outside of discussions her and I have had in the past. She was a little bit worried.
She had messaged me one day and gave me an idea for a new post. She said, "What would you tell a newly diagnosed family that needs to go back to work and find a babysitter for their Type 1 Diabetic child??"
I've thought long and hard on this one. It was a little difficult for me to answer, truthfully, because, well, I had never been in this situation. I have been a stay-at-home mom long before my son was diagnosed, and planned to continue to be a stay-at-home mom for a long time (unless my family needed me to go back to work).
Here are the tips I would suggest to any parent of a Type 1 Diabetic child, looking to go back to work, and needing a babysitter.
Educate. Educate. Educate.
- Basic Education: We educate the school nurses, don't we? Why would we not educate someone else? Even if that person claims to have experience managing other people's diabetes.... they don't have education managing your child's diabetes. I've said it on here before, and I'll say it again... just as every child is different, every diabetic is different. What works for one, may not work for another! Go through the basic diabetes education that we all learned while in the hospital with our precious little ones. Explain how carbohydrates, proteins, and fats affect blood sugar readings. Explain what high or low activity levels can play on a person's blood sugar. Tell them what ketones are; how they develop. You could even print out some basic information for them! Good reading material from a legitimate website can help drive home everything you try to teach them, and may even cause them to ask you more questions! You were educated on all of this before you left the hospital with your child at diagnosis so that the doctors knew that you knew how to safely manage this disease.... why should you send your child to be cared for by someone else (even family) without this basic knowledge as well?
- More Detailed Education: Once they have learned the basics about diabetes, how it is believed to develop, what ketones are and why they are so serious, what affects food, drink, and activity can have on blood sugars, now it is time to get down to the nitty gritty! Tell them about your child's specific needs. How does your child's blood sugars behave? What does your child participating in outdoor sports/activities do to their blood sugars, verses indoor activities? Does your child have hypoglycemia unawareness? Do they take insulin injections? Pump therapy? Does white bread affect their blood sugars differently than whole wheat bread? Are they on a specific dietary regime (gluten free?), or can they eat anything anyone else does, just need to cover the carbohydrates? If they are on insulin injections, what is their carbohydrate ratio? Correction factor? How much extra insulin do you give your child if they have a high blood sugar with ketones? The list goes on. The point is, give them as much information that you can for caring for your child in your absence as possible. Knowledge is power, but in this case, can be a life-saver!
- Write It Down! There is so much information we are going to be giving to these babysitters/care-givers, it'll be overwhelming! Writing it down will make it a lot easier for them to understand what to do in a given situation. Don't get me wrong, they may still need to call you at work sometimes to verify things with you, or ask a quick question. That is normal. How many times did we call our Children's Hospital Certified Diabetes Educators or endocrinologists to ask questions when we first started learning all of this? A lot, I'm sure! But, by writing it down, they have a checklist to go over, making it a little easier for them, so they don't have to call you at work every 2 hours to ask a question or get your opinion!
- Leave Contact Information. If there is an emergency, they need to be able to get in touch with you quickly. If you don't have a cell phone, this is where I'd recommend getting one. Even if it is just a pre-paid cell phone, these things can be very useful! Even if there are no emergencies, but the babysitter/care-giver needs to get in touch with you on a matter that you may have forgotten to cover and/or write down, she/he still needs a way to contact you. Cell phones are great for this because she can easily text or call you and leave a message if needed, for you to respond back to when you get a chance. Plus, it will help her feel a little more at ease knowing you are just a phone call or text away!
- Encourage Her To Shadow You. Encouraging your babysitter to "shadow" you for a few hours a day, before releasing your child to her care alone, will help ease her worries and tensions. It will also be a great learning tool for her! She can watch what you are doing in certain situations, and learn from it!
- Learn By Doing. After she has shadowed you for a day or two, encourage her to get a little hands-on experience under your supervision. We, as parents, did this in the hospital didn't we? I don't think the Certified Diabetes Educators and endocrinologists we went to would have let us take Lenny home unless they had physically seen us give him shots of insulin, check ketones in his urine, and had an understanding of carbohydrate counting! Truthfully, I think if they had, it would have just added to the amount of stress we were already under being new to this lifestyle! The same can be said for leaving our children to the care of a babysitter or care-giver! Just as we were just starting out, they are sure to feel the ball of anxiety growing in their chest when they think of managing this disease, and what can happen. Put their mind to ease (and yours!) by allowing them to do some hands-on training under your supervision. By doing this, you can also show them each step of insulin injections, how to use the pump, how to count carbs, etc. People learn best by doing. Hands-on education like this really drives home everything you have verbally taught them, as well as all the reading material you have provided to them, making them realize, this is serious stuff... but very do-able.
By providing your babysitter with basic diabetes education, detailed education about your child, writing things down in an easy to follow list for her, leaving your contact information on how to reach you should she need you, encouraging her to shadow you, and providing hands-on experience under your supervision, the transition from staying home to care for your child to back to work with a babysitter, will become less stressful for you, and your babysitter!
What tips would you give to a family of a child newly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and needing a babysitter to return back to work? I'd love to hear them!!