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Tips to Help Older Adults Improve Diabetes Management (Canadian Version)

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April 30, 2013

On paper, it seems simple. Diabetes management is as easy as ABC: A1C test, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But in practice, as you may know, keeping those measures of good diabetes management in check is actually much more challenging and complicated for patients, especially older adults.

Data from the 2011 report, Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective, showed that in 2008-2009 almost 2.4 million Canadians were living with diabetes and that number is only going to increase as a consequence of increasing rates of overweight and obesity.

Below you’ll find the recommended goals for each ABC measurement, along with tips and resources you can recommend to older patients to help them overcome barriers to good diabetes management.

A is for the A1C test, an estimate of blood sugar levels over the past three months. The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) generally recommends that people with diabetes aim for an A1C of less than 6.5% percent and get tested at least twice a year.

Adjusting your patient’s treatment plan help them better regulate their blood sugar levels may include making diet recommendations. Download this Nutrition for Seniors workbook (PDF 411 KB) for patients to find practical tips and food lists that can help them maintain a nutritious diet.

B is for blood pressure, which ideally should measure 130/80 mmHg or less, the CDA advises. There is often no symptoms of high blood pressure, therefore you could have high blood pressure and not know it. When someone with diabetes has high blood pressure it puts stress on the body and can cause damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.

Be sure to talk to your patients about blood pressure treatments and suggest how they can take a proactive approach to controlling blood pressure.

C is for cholesterol, specifically LDL (bad) cholesterol. The CDA advises LDL levels should be below 2.0 mmol/L or lower.  The CDA recommends that adults with diabetes should have their cholesterol tested yearly or as indicated by your health care professional. If you are currently on cholesterol medications more frequent testing may be necessary.

Talk to your patients about their cholesterol levels and the best treatments for their unique situation. Recently Health Canada updated the labeling for commonly prescribed statins, so your patients may have questions about that as well.

If your older patients struggle to practice proper self-care, consider recommending in-home senior care services. Professional caregivers such as those employed by the Home Instead Senior Care® network are trained to encourage and facilitate healthy diet and lifestyle changes in accordance with a doctor’s recommendations to help older adults properly manage their diabetes and avoid complications.

For more resources about older adults and diabetes, visit the diabetes resources section of

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