As caregivers to a child with type 1 diabetes, most of us put our child’s needs before our own. This is the part of a series about self-care. Today I discuss why it’s important to take a caregiving break, some tips for taking that break, and what my break looks like.
I tend to have all the diabetes knowledge in our family. I’m the one who orders supplies and insulin, deals with insurance and the pharmacy, makes appointments, communicates with the school nurse, adjusts basal rates and I:C ratios, gets up in the night to respond to CGM alarms and treat lows, inserts her CGM sensors, etc. (Though Q does all her pump changes on her own these days.) Being the primary diabetes caregiver is a lot of mental work and can take a physical toll.
It’s not that the other parent doesn’t want to help or isn’t capable of helping. I’ve just found that in many families, one parent or the other tends to take on the role of “diabetes manager.” In my book Kids First, Diabetes Second, I call this being “captain of the ship.”
But you seriously do need a break once in a while.
Take a Caregiving Break
My annual caregiving break involves me being at home alone for a few days with no responsibilities (see below), but taking a break doesn’t have to involve taking an actual vacation or sending your d-kid off somewhere. You can also think of it as a “diabetes caregiver staycation.” (I just coined that term, lol! I kind of like it.)
The point is to merely take a short-term physical and mental break from the demands of being the designated d-parent. It’s a chance to recharge. It’s a chance to get a full night’s sleep.
A caregiving break:
- Allows someone else to be in charge (spouse or grandparent) and
- Gives the other caregiver a chance to do diabetes management if they aren’t normally the primary diabetes caregiver.
Tips for your break:
- Be accessible if you are actually needed for an answer or advice, but let them do things on their own.
- Don’t call/text/email ten times a day asking, “How is it going?”
- Don’t peek at CGM data apps!
*It’s also important to give d-kids, especially teens who self-manage, a break once in a while by taking over their tasks for a weekend or a few days.
My Annual Caregiving Break
My husband takes the kids camping each summer and again in the fall. It’s a chance for them to get away and have some bonding time. And it’s a chance for me to have some time for myself … even if that means I’m catching up on a long list of errands, phone calls, and appointments that have piled up! But it’s also a chance for me to sleep through the night without CGM alarms, stay up late watching movies, and not have to get kids up and fed and to morning swim lessons in time.
I told my husband to make sure he and Q:
- Check-correct-calibrate in the morning and before bed.
- Check BG before meals.
- Check BG often during swimming (CGM loses signal in the water) and other activities.
- Take juice and granola bars to the pool and when they are bike riding, etc.
- Text me if she’s having lots of lows because I may want to do some temporary basal rates if she’s having lots of lows.
I didn’t get a single text or phone call about diabetes while they were camping for this past week.
Now, I shouldn’t say that everything will go 100% smoothly every time. During one camping trip, a slip up from my husband who broke our swim routine resulted in her CGM receiver going swimming. He didn’t tell me about that until they returned. But he did go into the nearest town to buy rice and a container to try to dry it out. But having to fend for themselves and make diabetes decisions together is really good for the other caregiver.
You Might Also Like…
Read more posts in this new series Self-Care for Parents of Children with Type One Diabetes.
My book, Kids First, Diabetes Second, has a section about being the “captain of the ship.”
(“Diabetes Caregiver Staycation” originally appeared on D-Mom Blog on July 10, 2017.)