The elderly in society plays a crucial role in shaping society, and they have been the custodians of tradition. However, they are the most vulnerable amongst all of us and require special healthcare.
On International Day for the Elderly, we tell you the ways to provide special care to manage diabetes in the elderly.
Managing diabetes in the elderly can require special care and effort. The primary reason for this specialized care is due to the prevalence of medical conditions and the existing decline in health due to old age. Therefore, diabetes management for the elderly needs changes frequently and requires the assistance of a diabetes educator at all times.
Tips to Managing Diabetes in the Elderly
In general cases, the tips provided for diabetes management may differ for old age diabetes. There are a few special recommendations for older people as growing older affects your diabetes. Here are a few recommendations:
● Staying active
Staying active in the later ages of life can become difficult due to the lack of muscle strength. However, maintaining mobility is one of the key aspects of self-care diabetes management. Not only does it improve your physical well-being but improves insulin sensitivity in the body as a whole.
Old age diabetes can cause frailty and increase the risk of a sedentary lifestyle in your body. It is therefore recommended to exercise for building limb strength and flexibility. For someone who has confined to a chair or bed, physiotherapy sessions at the start are recommended. Please note any type of new exercise in old age diabetes must be checked with a diabetes educator.
● Making the right food choices
Managing diabetes in the elderly through the right food choices is different from managing diabetes for young people. Old age diabetes does not always require you to reduce fat, salt or sugar due to different lifestyles. For instance, people living in old age homes are most likely to be underweight than being overweight. In such cases, lowering your fats can create further complications, including morbidity and mortality.
Before following any dietary recommendations, it is important to consult your diabetes educator for a thorough assessment. This will enable them to understand your food preferences, capability for meal preparation, and the barriers to adequate nutrition. Once all of the above is diagnosed, it becomes easier for the diabetes educator to make a diet chart that works best for managing old age diabetes.
Here are a few general recommendations for diabetes management:
– Mono and polyunsaturated fats are recommended in moderate quantities. For instance, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, or plant sources such as flax seeds, canola oil, nuts (walnuts) and seeds (sunflower)
– Avoid unhealthy fats such as saturated or trans fat
● Prevention and treatment of hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar levels go lower than the normal range. A hypo occurs when sugar levels are less than 4mmols/l. Since old age diabetes can cause fluctuations in the sugar levels more often than normal, the risk of an elderly suffering from hypoglycemia is higher. A hypo can lead to any of the following:
– Need for Insulin or diabetes medication
– Kidney problems
– Other illnesses and conditions
Generally, the symptoms of hypoglycemia are not quite evident and at times not visible at all. Nevertheless, the following are the first signs that need to be noticed:
- Difficulty in concentration
- Change in personality
- Morning headaches
- Disturbing sleep or abrupt sleep cycle
Hypoglycemia is generally treated by consumption of fast-acting glucose. This could be a sugary drink or sugar tablets followed by starchy food such as sandwiches or biscuits. In a case where you feel the condition is still deteriorating, immediately call an ambulance. One of the recommendations for managing diabetes in the elderly would be to keep a hypo box with instructions handy at all times.
It is further helpful in diabetes management to have regular meals and snacks containing carbs. Moreover, monitoring of blood sugar levels at frequent intervals is recommended for better management and prevention of hypos.
● Depression and health
One of the common things that go unnoticed during old age is mental well-being. Depression has now become too common and goes unnoticed in people with complex health problems. Moreover, foot infections, ulcers, continuous medication can take a toll on the mental health of any being. Anything that might affect your mental health will affect your sugar levels.
It is essential to get yourself checked by a diabetes educator to look out for signs of depression. Recognizing and understanding the cause of these issues at an early stage can help in preventing further complications.
● Illness and old age diabetes
Illness in old age is quite a familiar scene, especially for old age people who live in care homes and don’t get specialized care. Furthermore, diabetes can have an additional effect on them and their illness. Blood glucose generally rises quickly during illness as old age can cause dehydration. Therefore, extra monitoring and care is required at times when illness prevails.
In a case where your illness does not go, and you have to visit a doctor, it is recommended to carry a copy of the plan suggested by your diabetes educator for their better understanding.
There are numerous physical changes that affect your diabetes management as you grow. As and when these changes happen, it may indicate that something needs to be investigated. On International Day of Older Persons, let us all pledge to not simply assume any change to be a part of the ageing process and ask for support and care where self-care diabetes management is becoming difficult.