Advice for Elderly Diabetics

Diabetes affects more than a quarter of older adults.

Elderly diabetics are also at a greater risk of suffering from a heart attack, kidney disease, blindness, et al–leaving them much more likely to end up in a nursing home later on.

Because its treatment is complicated, diabetes becomes more difficult to manage as a person ages. All of this can leave a family caregiver frantically worrying about their elderly parent, especially if glucose numbers are slightly off.

But perhaps you should stop worrying so much. Take into account that diabetes is rarely the only ailment that people in their 70s and 80s are suffering from. On top of this, there is likely to be a complicated medication regimen which has the potential to produce unwanted side effects.

Treating diabetes too aggressively can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can actually be more dangerous than a high glucose reading to seniors who are already frail. Add it all together, and achieving the exact blood sugar level can become a complicated task.

So instead of worrying that Mom isn’t taking her diabetes as seriously as you’d like, it may help to focus instead on factors that are easier to control, such as ensuring that she has a high quality of life.

In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Medha Munshi, who oversees geriatrics at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, offers the following advice for elderly diabetes and their families, adapted below:

  • Be wary of medication that is prescribed to attain tight glycemic control. In seniors, low blood sugar can increase the risk of falling and also aggravate existing medical conditions such as heart disease and cognitive impairments.
  • Diabetes requires much more self-care than other diseases. As such, it can be difficult for an elderly person to manage, especially if they are suffering from poor vision, memory loss or depression.
  • Talk to the doctor and work out a medication cycle that revolves around times when a home care aide or other caregiver is present.
  • Everyone will say that exercise is crucial to meeting desired glucose levels–and it is. But getting regular exercise is difficult for many seniors who have limited mobility. In this case, encourage as much exercise as is reasonable, such as walking around the house for a few minutes before each meal.
  • Be tolerant of your loved one having the occasional sugary snack.It’s not just one disease they’re dealing with. It’s life, Munshi told the Times.

How have you learned how to best handle your loved one’s diabetes? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments.

Physicians’ Choice Private Duty Assisted Living currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of geriatric care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. Get your free Cost Comparison guide by clicking here. Or contact us for a free consultation or just to say hello!

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