If your loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, you probably have tons of questions. This article will address some common questions people have when their parent or other loved one has received a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
What is diabetes? Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin for its daily needs. Insulin is responsible for transporting glucose from the food we eat to our body cells. Without enough insulin, blood sugar levels tend to spike higher than normal. As we age, our risk of developing diabetes becomes greater. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes among seniors.
What causes diabetes in seniors? There is no one single cause that has been identified for diabetes. But obesity, a family history of diabetes, advanced age, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol are risk factors for the disease. Encourage your loved one to talk with their physician if they have any of these risk factors.
What are the symptoms of diabetes in seniors? Typical symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and weight loss. Seniors may also experience dry skin, a tingling in the extremities, and vision and dental problems. Some seniors with diabetes have no symptoms at all.
How is diabetes in seniors treated? High blood sugar levels can damage the eyes, heart, kidneys, and other parts the body, such as the nerves and teeth. This is why it is so important that your loved one receives prompt treatment. Treatment options include diabetes pills, which work to lower blood glucose, and insulin injections to make up for the body’s lowered production of the hormone.
What lifestyle remedies are recommended? In some cases, a healthy diet and regular exercise are enough to treat diabetes. But the longer Dad has the disease, the more likely it is that he will need to use insulin or diabetes pills. This doesn’t replace lifestyle remedies, which are so important to living well with diabetes. A healthy diet made up of lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of produce is an excellent starting point. Encourage Dad to space his meals throughout the day and to include a couple of healthy snacks in between. The plate method is an excellent tool to use for meal planning. Exercise can also help lower blood glucose. The best way for your loved one to stick to an exercise program is to help them find something they enjoy doing, whether that is an exercise class or walking the dog. They should aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day, and make sure to clear any new exercise program with a doctor. If a loved one smokes, encourage them to quit. Overall health numbers, including blood pressure and cholesterol levels, should be checked regularly.
Diabetes is not a condition that can be cured, but it can be managed well with careful planning and the support of family and friends. Commitment to a healthy lifestyle and careful monitoring can add up to years of healthy living for your loved one.
IMPORTANT: Not all assisted living communities are able to care for diabetics. Individuals requiring insulin injections, especially those on a sliding scale, must be able to manage the medication themselves. The care staff at an assisted living can help store and prepare the medication however a senior resident must be able to inject themselves. Only those communities with nurses on staff are able to manage and administer insulin to residents. Be sure to mention details of your loved one’s diabetes when speaking to your local senior living advisor as well as the intake department at any senior living community to be sure that there are no surprises after admission.