Caring for an Elder with Diabetes
Caring for an Elder with Diabetes
Diabetes is an increasingly common problem in America, with an estimated one fifth of all people over 65 managing it in some form. For many of them it may not yet be diagnosed. A high proportion of these people fail to properly control their blood glucose levels and this can be all the more problematic for those dependent on care, especially where several different caregivers are involved in providing them with food.
Elderly people living with diabetes experience specific problems that are less of an issue for other age groups. These can begin with possible misdiagnoses, as cases of diabetes that develop in old age can be masked by other types of health problems, for instance when confusion caused by diabetes is interpreted as a sign of dementia.
Because elderly people are more likely to suffer from problems like dementia and depression, which interfere with memory, it can be difficult for them to manage their eating patterns and medication intake. Proper documentation is vital to aid in avoiding such problems. For those comfortable with using them, mobile phone apps can be very effective, audio alerts remind patients to take their medication, allowing them to note when they have done so and alerting caregivers if this doesn’t happen.
Because diabetes interferes with glucose level regulation, it’s important to avoid giving a diabetic person sweet foods or drinks that can cause glucose levels to spike. It’s much better for sufferers to eat food containing long chain carbohydrates that are broken down slowly over time. These include cereals, potatoes, bread and most green vegetables. Alcohol should be avoided even if it doesn’t taste sweet, as it’s quickly broken down in the body to produce sugars.
Because they are more vulnerable to a range of other health problems, especially later in life, diabetics need to eat healthy, balanced diets and have a steady fluid intake throughout the day.
Smoking can significantly amplify health risks for those with diabetes. Carers should always respect individuals’ wishes and should understand that the stress of being denied access to cigarettes can also have negative health consequences. However, they should do what they can to support anyone to quit smoking.
Regular exercise can help diabetes sufferers in two ways:
There are two principal types of crisis that someone living with diabetes can suffer:
People with diabetes are prone to a number of complications, so should receive annual check-ups for the following:
Despite these issues most people with diabetes are able to enjoy a good quality of life as they get older, provided they have the right support. If their general health is good and the disease is well managed it does not need to stop them from living life to the full. Carers should also ensure that they make the time to enjoy their own lives as well.
Often, in its early stages, diabetes can be controlled by eating sensibly, exercising moderately and perhaps taking daily medications. Some medications help lower blood sugar levels, but sooner or later the vast majority of those affected will need insulin injections.
People who have lived with diabetes for a long period usually know what does and doesn’t work for them. As long as no severe cognitive impairment has set in, caregivers will often find that working closely with them, rather than making plans for them, is the most effective way to manage their condition.
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