With diabetes affecting one out of every four seniors aged 65 and older, controlling the life-long condition is a must-do for any senior diagnosed with the disease.
Do you care for someone with diabetes but don’t know what to do? This checklist of nine ways will help you support them so they can lead happy and healthy lives.
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What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high due to a lack of insulin production—a hormone responsible for regulating blood glucose in the body. Specifically, insulin fuels the cells with glucose from the food you eat.
However, in some cases, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, resulting in diabetes from the excess glucose remaining in your blood.
There are several types of diabetes, but the most common ones are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Monogenic and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes are much less common types of diabetes.
How Does Diabetes Impact Seniors?
With the impaired pancreatic function caused by aging, seniors are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Over time, without prompt intervention and management, the disease may progress and lead to the following serious health problems:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Eye problems
- Nerve damage
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Dental disease
Practical Tips for Managing Diabetes in Seniors
Although there’s no definitive cure for diabetes, this life-long condition requires careful treatment and regular attention.
In addition to medical treatments, such as insulin injections, here is a list of nine practical tips to help your parents or older family members manage diabetes properly.
Aside from assisting seniors in boosting their endurance and flexibility, staying active is also crucial for managing diabetes in seniors.
Regardless of intensity, physical activities, such as yoga, joining water aerobic sessions, bicycling, or going for walks, have been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
Although the American Diabetes Association recommends that you exercise for 30 minutes per day and at least five days a week to reap the benefits, consult your parents’ healthcare providers first to determine the frequency, duration, and types of exercise best for them.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Along with staying physically active, designing a healthy diet for your seniors is one of the most important ways to control their blood sugar.
Let your parents know it’s time to trade sugar, flour, processed foods, and soda drinks for fiber-rich foods, lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables. Get creative in the kitchen with these diabetic-friendly recipes here.
In addition, avoid fresh fruits and juices. Though generally healthy, they have too much sugar for your insulin-resistant elder. Instead, remind them to drink plenty of water, which helps dilute glucose in the bloodstream.
Check Blood Sugar Levels Regularly
Monitoring blood sugar levels is an essential part of day-to-day diabetes management. To know how and when to check your seniors’ blood sugar levels, speak to their healthcare professionals first.
Keep Up with the Medications
Forgetting to take medications is common among seniors. You can give them an automatic pill box with a built-in alarm to remind them when to take their pills, especially when you are away from home, to ensure that they take their medication on time.
Also, stock prescribed medications and use a pill organizer to store them to avoid running out of pills unexpectedly.
Practice Stress-Reducing Techniques
When under stress, your body produces more fat and glucose due to the excessive production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Although stress is a natural part of life, how your parents’ bodies respond to too much cortisol can significantly impair their ability to control the disease, resulting in spikes, elevated blood sugar, and increased risk of diabetes complications.
Consequently, managing stress is a must-do for everyone, but it’s particularly critical for those with diabetes. Deep breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, and creative hobbies are a few stress-reducing methods your parents can try to manage stress and improve their overall quality of life.
Vaccines are uniquely important for diabetics. The older your parents get, their immune system becomes weaker over time. Consequently, they are more likely to catch the flu or develop pneumonia.
While getting vaccinated is necessary for all seniors over 60-65 to prevent pneumonia or flu, fully-vaccinated diabetic seniors can specifically avoid the consequences of flu complications.
Inspect the Feet Every Day
One of the possible complications of diabetes is nerve damage, which might lead to amputations.
Help your parents inspect their feet regularly to check for any early, visible signs of blisters, redness, infections, or cuts, especially if their eyesight is diminished. If you spot these signs of nerve damage on their feet, see a doctor immediately.
Furthermore, show your parents the following practical ways to keep their feet safe:
- Use lotion to prevent dryness.
- Wear comfortable footwear.
- Trim their nails once a week.
Visit the Dentist
People with diabetes are more prone to develop these dental problems and gum diseases:
- Early gum disease (gingivitis)
- Advanced gum disease (periodontitis)
- Dry mouth
As a result, taking extra measures for dental health is as crucial as managing blood sugar levels. Remind your parents to visit the dentist regularly to receive proper dental care and prompt intervention if their teeth or gums bleed or show redness.
Seek Medical Help When Needed
For the most part, looking after older diabetic family members can be exhausting if you have other familial obligations to fulfill. Overall, never be afraid to ask for extra support or seek medical help when you need it.
Keep Diabetes in Check at 12 Oaks Communities
In our communities, we never stop looking for ways to combine practical, holistic, and medically-proven approaches with a quality environment to control, manage and put our residents at ease despite the struggles caused by several age-related diseases.
We take personalized, one-of-a-kind approaches to regulating chronic health issues like diabetes or Alzheimer’s. From routinely monitored activities to close-up assistance for specialty care, our dedicated staff is available 24 hours daily to ensure each resident receives the world-class care they deserve.
If you have questions about managing diabetes in seniors, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to book a scheduled personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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