Managing Senior Diabetes for Caregivers

By Dr. Robert Mutterperl, P3 Health Partners Medical Group

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 25 percent of seniors 65 and older have diabetes.

While type 1 diabetes is most often developed at a younger age, type 2 diabetes is the more common type and is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged and older people. Due to lifelong eating and lifestyle habits that contribute to diabetes’ development, seniors are at a greater risk for developing this disease.

The following are some tips caregivers can follow to help control and manage diabetes in their loved ones.

How can seniors and their caregivers keep diabetes under control? 

It starts with preventative screening. All seniors should be screened regularly for risk factors and signs of diabetes. The two goals of diabetes treatment are to make sure seniors feel well day-to-day and to prevent or delay long-term health problems. The best way to reach these goals is by:

  • Taking prescribed medications or insulin – Without question, patients should understand what their prescribed medications are and how they should be taken. Also, they should know any of the common side effects that these medications have so that they can discuss this with the provider and avoid problems. Before any medication is given, the caregiver along with the patient, should understand the method of administration, as well as the common side effects as presented by the provider.
  • Checking blood glucose – Monitoring of blood glucose is a good gauge to see how diet and activity influences the control. By noticing if your blood glucose is above the range prescribed by your provider, you could alter your dietary intake, as well as your physical activity. Maintaining good blood glucose control can go a long way to avoid the complications of diabetes, vascular disease, eye disease and kidney disease.
  • Planning what to eat and when to eat – Having a good understanding of what carbohydrate intake does to your blood sugar is a worthwhile endeavor. Carb counting to some people is very complicated, but if you speak to a diabetic nutritional specialist, they can help you simplify this activity and use it to your best advantage in planning your meals, especially your carbohydrate intake. Remember, your diet as well as your activity go a long way in helping you control your blood sugar which, in turn improves your chances of reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and limb loss.
  • Being physically/mentally active – These are fundamental to your well-being. They impact many factors that contribute to not only diabetic management, but also cognitive decline (dementia).

What are some lifestyle changes to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes?

  • Healthy eating
  • Lose any unnecessary weight
  • Being physically active

Everyone should treat these as lifetime and lifestyle goals. They have been shown to reduce your chances of developing diabetes mellitus, type 2, or at least to the point where you may be able to reduce the interventions, i.e., medications necessary to control your diabetes, which in turn will go a long way to improving quality of life.

How can caregivers help control diabetes? 

The caregiver’s role in the management of all chronic illnesses, and especially diabetes, has become increasingly important as treatment interventions have become numerous, and at times, complex.

A caregiver’s role as an advocate for the patient to the healthcare provider will often improve the continuity of care. Additionally, the caregiver is vital to maintaining the loved one’s compliance with medical treatment, doctor visits and awareness of unrecognized changes in their condition, which often go unnoticed by the seniors themselves.

Are there signs/symptoms that caregivers can look out for to prevent type 2 diabetes?

Some of the common signs of type 2 diabetes MAY include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck

The role of the caregiver is important in recognizing the signs, which may occur slowly and not be appreciated by seniors. Equally important is the caregiver’s role in monitoring the lifestyle choices of healthy eating, weight management and encouraging physical, mental and social activity.

Overall, the treatment of diabetes is recognizing changes in lifestyle to identify its signs and symptoms. With this accomplished, appropriate interventions can be started sooner, which is the foundation to managing a chronic problem.

Likewise, it is important to realize that diabetes has with it the potential for being the forerunner of other chronic illnesses that increase the likelihood of severe, debilitating conditions and death. The goal of treatment is early identification. The sooner the appropriate interventions are started, the greater success in reducing its complications.

For more tips on preventing and managing diabetes, follow P3 on social media.

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