Managing Senior Diabetes
Senior Diabetes is a significant health risk. As we get older, our risk for type 2 diabetes increases. Among those older than 65, approximately 24 percent of men and 18 percent of women are living with diabetes. In the United States, about 1 out of every 4 people over the age of 60 have diabetes.
In a nutshell, type 2 diabetes is a condition characterized by high blood glucose levels that are caused by either a lack of insulin or the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently.
The most common signs and symptoms of the disease are frequent urination and excessive thirst. However, a senior that has recent urinary incontinence and/or who is suddenly more confused, could be showing signs of diabetes that may not have been diagnosed yet. They could also present with dehydration, dry eyes, dry mouth, and even numbness and tingling in the extremities (neuropathy).
The earlier this disease is identified, the better, so that you can start making changes to your diet and lifestyle to control the progression and to improve your long term health.
Signs and Symptoms
Senior Diabetes is a disease that can affect many different systems in the body and can have many complications associated with it.
- Damage to the eyes
- Damage to the heart
- Damage to the blood vessels
- Damage to the nervous system
- Damage to the teeth and gums
- Damage to the feet and skin
- Damage to the kidneys
Most of these complications can either be prevented or significantly delayed by keeping blood glucose, blood pressure, and LDL (low density lipoproteins) cholesterol levels as close to normal as possible.
Challenges to Care
For the elderly, there are many barriers to care which can affect how well they fight this disease. They have more limited mobility causing challenges with circulation and metabolism, making it difficult to do the things that they used to do to take care of themselves. They are often socially isolated and may have financial problems as well. They often experience changes in taste and a lack of interest and ability to shop for food and prepare meals, or they simply forget to eat or drink fluids.
Caring for older people with senior diabetes requires special thought and consideration. Diet is critical for the senior who has type 2 diabetes. High quality lean protein, whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, fresh fruits such as berries, and monounsaturated fats such as nuts and avocado.
These are the recommended foods that should be eaten to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. And these are the types of foods that require frequent trips to the grocery store and careful preparation, which is often not possible for an elderly adult who has challenges with mobility.
Exercise is important to help the body utilize the glucose taken in the diet, whether that be short walks or chair or bed exercises.
Foot care and nail care, regular inspection of the feet, checking between the toes for athlete’s foot or looking for cuts or sores is very important. Loss of sensation and feeling in the feet is common in long standing diabetes.
As you can see, it is especially critical for the senior with diabetes to have someone around who can help them manage this disease. Many folks are fortunate to live with a family member who cares for them, but far too many live alone and cannot accomplish the dietary and lifestyle tasks required to address their diabetes.
Harmony Home Care, now BrightStar Care provides caregivers in the home to ensure that the elderly person’s basic needs are taken care of. Experienced and compassionate caregivers go grocery shopping and prepare healthy meals, remind and assist with drinking adequate fluids, remind and monitor the intake of important medications necessary to manage the diabetes. A caregiver also provides socialization and stimulation, promoting and managing an exercise program. But most of all, Harmony Home Care’s, now BrightStar Care’s nurse supervised caregivers are there to make sure that the senior is functioning at the highest level possible, safely at home.
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