Diabetes is one of the most common conditions facing our seniors today. With all of the other chronic illnesses they face, creating a plan for diabetes care and support is an important step in a healthy life at home.
Many people don’t even realize they have the disease. A quarter of adults over the age of 65 are currently living with diabetes. It is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and affects people of all ages.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is related to the body’s regulation of blood sugar. Blood glucose is what gives the body energy, but insulin is needed for the sugar to get into the body’s cells. If the body doesn’t produce enough insulin in the pancreas, then the cells fail to get the energy they need and the glucose stays in the bloodstream. This can lead to many health problems and requires treatment by a doctor.
Type 1 diabetics do not make any insulin. Most often this kind of diabetes develops in younger years.
Type 2 diabetics do make insulin, but it is not used well enough to stay healthy. Most diabetics are Type 2 and develop the disease as adults.
There are other types of diabetes including gestational diabetes, monogenic diabetes, and others.
What are the symptoms and health effects?
There are many symptoms associated with diabetes including:
- Low energy
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Blurry vision
- Sores and cuts that are slow to heal
- Tingly feeling or numbness in extremities
- Weight loss
It’s always best to check with your doctor to get tested.
How is Diabetes Treated?
Often, Type 2 diabetics can manage the disease with improved diet and exercise. But many people with the disease require medication and insulin injections. Sometimes additional medication might be required to manage high blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions.
Typically, a medical team will devise a plan that takes into account lifestyle, health goals, and other factors.
Glucose monitoring will typically be a part of a diabetes plan. This requires a blood glucose meter which takes a drop of blood and will give readings to help make decisions about medication, exercise, and food.
Hypoglycemia is when blood sugar is too low. This can be very serious and should be treated right away. Often the first steps are to eat or drink high carbohydrate foods.
Hyperglycemia is when blood sugar is too high. If this happens often, the healthcare team may make changes to the diabetes care plan.
Additional Concerns for Older Adults
Often seniors have a number of chronic conditions to manage as well as many different medications. Close coordination with a primary physician can help manage diabetes as part of the overall care plan.
A few important ways to help manage the disease for older adults include:
- Regular glucose monitoring
- A balanced meal plan
- Taking medication properly
- Following an exercise plan
- Yearly dentist visits
- Checking feet and other extremities for signs of infection
Additional help may be needed to allow older adults to manage the disease in a home environment. A home health aide can often implement a diabetes care plan and support a safe home environment.
Diabetes affects many older adults and can complicate the healthcare process. Understanding how diabetes works is important in developing a care plan. By working with a healthcare team and working with others to provide support, the disease can be effectively managed.