Dealing with Seniors who have Diabetes And Special Concerns
The prevalence of diabetes increases with age and, with our aging population, there will be a higher percentage of the population that suffers from this debilitating condition. There are special concerns when dealing with seniors who have diabetes that need to be addressed as a person ages. Many times ailing seniors will neglect to keep up with their health due to mobility and other issues, so it’s important to check in with them and offer assistance.
Seniors and Blood Sugar Monitoring
In order to know the effectiveness of diabetic management, it is important to check your blood sugar at least twice per day. If you’ve ever tried to check your own blood pressure, you know there are several steps involved and it takes a bit of dexterity to get the blood and run the machine. An elderly person with arthritis, for example, may not have the dexterity to properly get a good blood sugar reading.
This makes the determination of whether or not the treatment for diabetes is being effective more difficult unless another family member is available to do the monitoring for the senior. Some blood sugar monitors are purely visual so that seniors with low vision may not be able to read the reading off the monitor. A talking meter may be necessary.
Seniors and Weight Loss
As a person ages, they tend to have less of an appetite and gradually lose weight. Why this is isn’t exactly clear but the decrease in lack of smell may have something to do with not being able to enjoy foods as much. As the weight declines, the blood sugars go down and the senior diabetic is at a greater risk of low blood sugar readings and hypoglycemia unless the medication is adjusted to account for the bodily changes.
This means getting your blood checked regularly at the doctor’s office using the Hemoglobin A1c test, which measures the “sugar-coatedness” of the hemoglobin of the blood over the past three months and modifying the diabetic medications accordingly.
Diabetic Visual Changes And Seniors
Diabetics under poor control are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, a condition where the blood vessels of the retina of the eyes become fragile and leaky, blocking out areas of vision. This only adds to the problem of refractive errors (near-sightedness and far-sightedness), cataracts, glaucoma, and presbyopia common in the elderly person’s eyes. The additive effect of all of these conditions leads to blindness and significant disability in the elderly person.
Seniors, Circulation and Diabetes
The longer a person has diabetes, the greater is the person’s chance of having plaques of cholesterol build up in the arteries of the body, including places such as the feet and legs, heart, and the arteries supplying the brain.
These blood vessel changes can lead to gangrene of the feet, a heart attack, or a stroke. This is why many seniors and even younger people who have diabetes also take medications to lower cholesterol. The combination of good cholesterol and diabetic control can reduce the incidence of the serious conditions that can come out of poor diabetic care.
Seniors and Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy involves having damage to the nerves of the body, particularly of the nerves of the feet and hands, with the feet being affected the most. This leads to poor feeling of the senior’s feet, complicated by poor circulation.
The senior individual can easily step on something and get a cut or scrape that can get an infection. Left unchecked, these open areas of the skin can cause deep ulcerations of the skin and serious infection. Diabetic seniors really need to check the bottoms of their feet and between the toes and seek medical attention if there are sores, cuts or blackened areas noted.
Support And Assistance
It is important to never neglect or forget about our elderly. When family members cannot be as attentive as they would like to be, hiring a nurse or an aid to be with a senior in the home to assist them with the management of the disease can be helpful. It is also important to convey to them that they are not a burden; as such, feelings can lead them towards depression and stress that can make diabetes conditions worsen.