Few things require as much patience, understanding, and dedication as caring for an elderly loved one. Managing diabetes in elderly parents can seem even more difficult. Seniors with diabetes bring with them a large number of special challenges. These include a higher propensity for disability, both mental and physical, higher likelihood of diabetes-related conditions like heart attack, stroke, or hypertension, and a higher propensity for some common illnesses and conditions associated with aging, like chronic pain, depression, and falls.
Our reasons for pointing this out isn’t to make caring for an elderly parent or loved one with diabetes seem depressing or extremely difficult – it doesn’t have to be! Instead, it’s absolutely critical for providing effective care to understand how the needs of seniors with diabetes differ from the needs of seniors without it, or from the needs of younger people with diabetes. Good care starts with a good understanding of the condition being cared with, and requires a tailored approach. A strong and customized approach can make the process of caring for your parent with diabetes much safer, more effective, and simpler.
Remember, no amount of advice from blogs can replace the advice of a trusted family physician, nor should it be used as a substitute for such. As always, use this post as a jumping off point for a conversation with your parent’s doctor and other healthcare providers. Now, here are some important factors to consider when building a care regimen for your parents or elderly loved ones with diabetes:
Everything Needs To Be Done Gradually
One of the biggest differences between caring for a middle-aged adult or a child with diabetes and a senior with diabetes is that changes need to be much slower. Older bodies can’t take rapid diet, exercise, or medication changes as well as younger ones can. Even when reducing weight or blood glucose levels by a large amount can lead to major health gains, the shock of doing so suddenly can place your elderly loved one in danger.
The good news is that even small changes can produce significant positive outcomes. For examples, clinical studies have shown that in older adults with Type 2 diabetes, even a 1% decrease in A1C levels can decrease the risk of small blood vessel complications by as much as 37%, and reduce risks of other diabetes complications by 21%. The slow and steady approach also helps build good routines and habits, instead of relying on crash programs for rapid results.
Elderly People With Diabetes Are More Susceptible To Hypoglycemia
A tight blood glucose control regimen can be extremely beneficial to many seniors with diabetes. In caring for your parent with diabetes, you might be tempted to be very strict with carbohydrate and other sugar intake. However, keep in mind that seniors, especially those that are more frail or in worse shape, tend to be more susceptible to hypoglycemia than younger people with diabetes. This can be especially troubling when combined with the propensity for seniors with diabetes to have a higher incidence of memory loss, dementia, and absent-mindedness.
To make the treatment regimen safer and easier, make sure that you either remind your parent with diabetes to test their blood glucose level regularly, or test it yourself. Make sure that you always test blood glucose before giving an insulin injection. Setting up a strong routine can be extremely helpful, and make both you and your parent with diabetes feel more secure in your regimen. Consider using one of the many cell phone apps, or an insulin pen timer-enabled replacement cap, to help seniors remember when they need to take their insulin shots.
Caring for an elderly parent or loved one with diabetes can be challenging, but it doesn’t need to be hard. The key to making the process easier and more pleasant for yourself and your parent is to identify the specific factors that make your parent’s condition unique, and then build a steady and constant regimen around it. Once it becomes habit, both you and your elderly loved one may be shocked at how pleased you are with the level of care. Good luck!