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How to Help Seniors and Caregivers Manage Diabetes at Home

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August 4, 2017

As the rate of diabetes in American adults over age 65 continues to rise, senior care professionals can play a significant role in helping these older adults and their family caregivers manage the condition at home. According to the CDC, nearly 12 million seniors have been diagnosed with diabetes, and the rate of the condition among people between the ages of 65 and 74 rose 113 percent between 1993 and 2014. These numbers suggest that diabetes will continue to be a serious health issue among older adults for years to come.

Diabetes increases a senior’s risk of developing several other comorbidities, including cardiovascular disease and kidney failure. In a recent webinar co-sponsored by the American Society on Aging and Home Instead, Inc., gerontologist Lakelyn Hogan and registered nurse Lanita Knoke discussed several ways senior care professionals can help clients manage their diabetes for improved wellness and quality of life. They also talked about tactful ways healthcare professionals can address “the diabetes elephant in the room:” obesity.

To provide support for seniors with diabetes and their caregivers, you might consider these four strategies.

1. Provide education as a means of empowerment

Diabetes management can feel like a complex, overwhelming thing, especially for an older adult who may have multiple comorbid conditions. You can help seniors and caregivers feel more confident and empowered to take on the task of diabetes management by arming them with key information, such as:

  • How to recognize the signs and symptoms of diabetes, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia
  • How diabetes increases the risk of developing comorbidities like cardiovascular disease, retinopathy and kidney disease
  • Things they can do to reduce their risk of complications
  • The emotional effects of diabetes on seniors and caregivers, and how to recognize the signs of depression

 

When providing this type of information, focus on the positives: diabetes can be managed successfully at home, and doing so can help clients avoid potentially serious complications while improving their quality of life.

2. Provide practical tips for diabetes management

Many people know that diet and exercise are key components of successful diabetes management. But telling a frail 80-year-old man to walk 5 miles a day may not be a useful prescription for success.

Try to tailor your suggestions to the individual client. For example, suggest making small, incremental adjustments to nutrition and activity. For some seniors, simply adding an extra helping of vegetables to each meal could be a better route to successful dietary change than recommending they throw out a lifetime of eating habits in favour of adopting a full-blown diabetes diet. Encourage family caregivers to study up on good eating and exercise habits for diabetes and then add in one change per week as a way to march steadily toward the goal of a full-featured diabetic eating plan.

3. Provide resources to help clients and caregivers cope

Encourage seniors with diabetes and their caregivers to reach out to organizations like the American Diabetes Association for help and support to manage their condition. Recommend solutions like Simple Meds to reduce the stress of medication management and polypharmacy. For seniors who need assistance with larger issues, like housing or prescription costs, provide a list of agencies like your local Area Agency on Aging that can help them get on a path to wellness.

4. Learn how to tactfully address the “elephant in the room”

For many people, including seniors, obesity is the condition that causes them to develop diabetes. So how can you have a conversation with your client about his or her weight in a compassionate, constructive and tactful way?

Lakelyn Hogan suggests approaching the topic from the perspective of the health effects of weight issues. Instead of calling out a person for being overweight, try having a discussion about the ways in which certain chronic health conditions are affected by weight. For instance, obesity not only reduces blood glucose control but it can cause high blood pressure. Emphasize the positive: according to one study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, the health effects of obesity may be reduced or eliminated by losing even a small amount of weight.

If possible, try to determine the root cause for the client’s overeating. Loneliness, depression, anxiety and boredom all can prompt an older adult to consume too many calories. With compassion, you can address these underlying issues and possibly improve the client’s emotional and physical health.

Senior care professionals can play a major role in helping older adults and their caregivers successfully manage diabetes and other chronic health conditions for increased wellness and quality of life. For even more details on how to help older adults live with diabetes, watch a replay of the “Living with Diabetes” webinar.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 29, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Posted by Elaine

    Thanks, very helpful info. I struggle with Type 2 Diabetes.

    Reply

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