Caring for an older adult with diabetes may include special challenges such as coexisting medical conditions, physical limitations and failing memory.
Whether the person lives alone, with you, or in a nursing home, your involvement can help them obtain better diabetes care and quality of life.
Some unique factors in diabetes eldercare include:
Making sure that the Person Receives Adequate Nutrition
Changes in taste and smell, as well as stomach acid composition, are a normal part of the aging process. This combination causes many older individuals to eat less and can bring about poor nutrition. Aging family members with diabetes may be at higher risk for vitamin B1, B12, C, D, and folate deficiencies, in addition to deficiencies in various minerals, including calcium, zinc and magnesium.
Older individuals with diabetes, especially those in nursing homes, tend to be underweight. Ensure your loved one is receiving adequate nutrition since low body weight is associated with higher death rates in older adults.
Unnecessary dietary restrictions put in place by long-term care facilities may lead to malnutrition and dehydration. If long-term care is necessary, evaluate the facility for food quality and meal variety to ensure your family member does not lose interest in food.
Older individuals may not be able to tolerate a diet high in fiber. Increases in dietary fiber need to be introduced slowly in conjunction with adequate fluid intake and/or physical activity.
High blood glucose levels may cause a greater need to urinate, which in turn can lead to urinary incontinence, sleep disruption, dehydration and an increased risk for injuries and falls.
Frequent urination may also be caused by certain medications, so it may be hard to determine whether high blood glucose levels or a drug side effect is the culprit. If a change in urination frequency occurs, be sure to monitor your loved one’s blood glucose levels carefully and talk to your doctor about possible medication causes.
High blood glucose levels cause the blood to become thicker and stickier, which increases the risk for stroke.High blood glucose levels can decrease mental function and make daily diabetes management tasks difficult.
Always remember that improved mental function can usually be maintained with better diabetes control.High blood glucose levels may interfere with the immune system, increasing the risk for infection and preventing normal wound recovery.
Managing the Person’s Medications to make sure they are Taken Properly and to prevent Harmful Drug Interactions
The need for prescription and over-the-counter medications increases with age, so older individuals with diabetes have a higher risk for drug side effects and drug-to-drug interactions.
Due to both the normal aging process and diabetic retinopathy, poor vision can increase the risk of falls. Additionally, the fear of falling may cause an older individual to avoid social interaction and limit activities.
Older adults may use pain-relieving medicines often and, as a result, suffer from reduced mental function and increased risk for injuries and falls.
Dealing with special Physical or Mental Limitations that can make it harder for the Person to care for their Diabetes
It’s also important to note that, due to increased age, older individuals with diabetes experience complications to a greater degree or at a faster rate:
Between 25% and 70% of individuals aged 74 years and older are estimated to have vision problems due to diabetic retinopathy.
Painful nerve damage in the legs and feet is common among people with diabetes who are over 70 years old.
Heart disease, stroke and diabetes-related amputations appear to occur in older adults at a higher rate.
Older adults with diabetes are 14 times more likely to suffer from depression than older adults who do not have diabetes.
Caring for a loved one with diabetes requires more than administering medication and scheduling doctors’ visits. You play a vital role in making life as safe and comfortable as possible for your family member and there is much you can do to ensure their well-being:
Remain alert. Behavioral changes are powerful indicators that something may be wrong with your family member’s physical or emotional health.
Learn all you can about diabetes as well as any additional medical conditions your loved one may have. Be aware of the warning signs of high and low blood glucose levels and diabetes complications.
Choose diabetes supplies that are senior-friendly. When selecting a blood glucose meter, look for one that is easy to use, has a large display screen and does not need to be cleaned. If your family member takes insulin, consider insulin pens instead of syringes because insulin pens are usually easier and more convenient to use.
If your family member lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, review their meal plan and medication list with a staff member. Make unannounced visits during mealtime to see what foods are served and how well your family member is eating.
If your family member lives with you, schedule some time with a licensed dietician to develop a meal plan that will not only appeal to your loved one’s taste, but that will also be compatible with their diabetes care.
For more great Health and Nutrition Tips refer to the website positivehealthwellness.com.
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