Type 2 diabetes is becoming more and more prevalent in the U.S. There are currently more than 34 million Americans who have the condition, and 25% of adults over 65 have it. There’s a reason why seniors are more susceptible to this condition. As we age, our bodies change, and it can be hard to make the adjustments necessary to stay healthy.
Despite these challenges, it’s still very possible for an older adult with diabetes to have a great quality of life. In this article, we’ll outline two key components to managing diabetes, the consequences of not controlling it, and why it can make sense to bring in a caregiver to help.
The keys to managing diabetes: lifestyle changes & medications
One of the simplest ways to manage diabetes is making lifestyle modifications:
- Eating well – Nutrition can have a big impact on how someone with diabetes feels from day to day. The food you eat affects glucose levels, so it’s important to learn what’s best for you to eat, how much, and when.
- Exercise – Walking and other forms of daily exercise can help improve glucose levels in older people with diabetes. Seniors should try to be active most days of the week and create a plan for being physically active that fits into their lives.
- Sleep – Getting enough quality sleep is another lifestyle factor that impacts those with diabetes. Seniors can often have issues with sleep, so it takes some concentrated effort to make those adjustments.
Adhering to the doctor’s treatment plan is also crucial to diabetes management. Taking medications (pills, insulin, etc.) properly, monitoring blood sugar, and making it to doctor’s appointments are all things that must be done to avoid the condition worsening or leading to complications.
The dangers of non-compliance
As we age, it can become more difficult to manage complicated routines in addition to the activities of our daily life. If lifestyle changes aren’t made and treatment plans aren’t followed, the consequences can be dire. Healthline outlines five common complications that can occur when those who have diabetes don’t manage it well:
- Skin conditions – Uncontrolled diabetes can cause an increased risk of bacterial and fungal skin infections.
- Vision loss – Uncontrolled diabetes increases your chances of developing several eye conditions, including:
- Nerve damage – According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about half of people with diabetes have nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy.
Several types of neuropathy can develop as a result of diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy can affect your feet and legs, as well as your hands and arms. Autonomic neuropathy can affect your digestive system, bladder, genitals, and other organs. Other types of neuropathy can affect your joints, face, eyes, and torso.
- Kidney disease – High blood glucose levels increase the strain on your kidneys. Over time, this can lead to kidney disease.
- Heart disease and stroke- In general, type 2 diabetes increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. However, the risk may be even higher if your condition isn’t managed. That’s because high blood glucose can damage your cardiovascular system. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than people who don’t have diabetes. They’re also one and a half times more likely to experience a stroke.
As the family caregiver, it can be difficult to ensure your parent or loved one is doing everything they need to do to manage their diabetes and prevent complications. That’s when bringing in non-medical in-home care can be a great supplement to your efforts.
How in-home care works with diabetes
In-home caregivers provide things like companionship, transportation to medical appointments, help with errands, household chores, personal hygiene, and meal preparation. This service is valuable for any senior who wants to stay independent in their home. But many of our caregivers are trained to understand the unique needs of clients who have diabetes. Diabetes is one of our eight specialty programs, and the training they receive includes:
- The fundamentals of diabetes, including the various types, how it affects the body, the diagnostic criteria, symptoms, risk factors, and common complications
- The role of insulin in diabetes and how to help clients lessen the risk of hypoglycemia and other medical complications
- Age-related nutrition changes, the carbohydrate exchange system, and how to plan nutrient-dense meals on a budget
- Common medications and how diet, exercise, and medications work together to treat diabetes
- Preventing and treating prediabetes and helping clients perform appropriate exercises
A caregiver that’s trained and educated on diabetes will be able to spot issues that could lead to complications. They’ll also be able to assist with those things that help symptom management like exercise, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, and medication reminders.
If you choose to use a caregiver from an agency, there are additional things that may be done to make sure your loved one is well cared for. At Sequoia Senior Solutions, we have a tried-and-true process before we match a caregiver to a client. We perform a complimentary and personalized needs assessment, during which special care is taken to assign a caregiver who has the experience to meet the needs of your loved one. We also perform a home evaluation to ensure that your loved one is as safe as possible in their home.
A caregiver can provide a much-needed break for family members while ensuring your parent stays safe and as comfortable as possible. Because they are specially trained, you’ll have peace of mind that your loved one will be in good hands.
If you’d like to learn more about our Diabetes Specialty Program and see if we’d be a fit for your situation, please reach out using this form to schedule a complimentary discovery call. A client service specialist would be happy to answer any questions you may have. And be sure to check out our other articles on diabetes – written for family caregivers just like you.