Managing Diabetes in Older Adults as a Caregiver
If you provide care for an older family member, there’s a good chance you need to help them manage diabetes or their risk of becoming diabetic. More than 29 million Americans are diabetics, and another 86 million are at risk of developing diabetes due to high blood sugar. Diabetes is especially common in older adults – more than a quarter of American seniors are currently managing diabetes. Managing Diabetes in Older Adults
The good news for caregivers is that by educating yourself on diabetes, you can play an active role in managing your loved one’s blood sugar and their risk of a diabetic episode. Managing Diabetes in Older Adults
Start with Self-Education
The first thing to do when caring for a diabetic parent is to teach yourself all that you can about your parent’s condition. While your parent may be used to caring for their diabetes, you may find there’s a steep learning curve to helping them manage this condition.
Luckily, there are plenty of resources available for those who care for older adults with diabetes. Start by speaking with your loved one’s physician, who will be able to talk you through their specific diabetes concerns. After that, you’ll be able to find practically everything you need to know online. We suggest starting with the American Diabetes Association, who offer a number of invaluable resources for those learning about diabetes. Managing Diabetes in Older Adults
Blood Sugar Tests & Medications
If your family member is managing diabetes, they are likely testing their blood sugar one or more times each day. But old age can make testing blood sugar difficult, or can trigger memory difficulties that cause seniors to forget to test their sugar levels. Because of this, you may be called on to assist your loved one with blood sugar testing.
Once again, we recommend speaking with your loved one’s doctor first. Your loved one’s personal physician should be familiar with the type of blood testing equipment your loved one uses and will be able to give you tips on how to test and record blood sugar levels.
Medications are commonly used to manage diabetes in older adults. Some seniors with diabetes are prescribed oral medications, while others use injectable insulin. As a caregiver, you should know which medications your loved one takes, what dosages they are prescribed, and what their medication schedule is. If they require assistance with their medications, your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist can instruct you in how you can help. Managing Diabetes in Older Adults
Encouraging a Healthy Lifestyle
Managing diabetes in older adults ultimately comes down to lifestyle. Seniors with diabetes need to treat their bodies right to keep blood glucose within a healthy range. You can help an elderly loved one manage their diabetes by assisting and encouraging them in healthy lifestyle choices.
Lifestyle choices that help manage diabetes in older adults include:
- Monitoring for low or high blood glucose levels. This not only includes regular blood sugar testing, but also monitoring your loved one for the symptoms of unhealthy blood sugar fluctuations.
- Healthy diet. Your loved one’s diet will have the biggest impact on his or her blood sugar levels. You can help by planning and preparing healthy, balanced meals and ensuring they have healthy food options around them.
- Regular Exercise. Light aerobic exercise can help control diabetes in older adults. Encourage your loved one to garden, talk walks, or participate in aquatic fitness classes.
- Check Feet Regularly. Feet are the most vulnerable areas for a diabetic infection. But older adults with mobility and flexibility issues can find it hard to check their feet properly. You can assist your loved one by checking their feet for them each day, or as often as possible.
Of course, managing diabetes in older adults can be difficult, especially on your own. If you’re concerned that your loved one needs additional care and monitoring, ask other family members if they can help.
Alternatively, you can hire a care professional. Home nurses can help manage diabetes in older adults by assisting with medications and blood sugar monitoring. If your loved one doesn’t need assistance with medications or blood sugar testing, you might a consider a non-medical home care provider, who can help with meal planning, meal preparation, encouraging exercise, and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle.