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3 Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Diabetes Complications - Canada

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The rate of Type 2 diabetes among Canadians over age 65 continues to grow. The Canadian Diabetes Association says 22.1 percent of men and 14.8 percent of women aged 65 and older has been diagnosed with diabetes. That means you may find yourself helping a senior (or a family caregiver) manage a disease that brings along a host of potential complications.

Type 2 diabetes rarely exists alone. It loves to hang out with its friends, hypertension (high blood pressure), neuropathy (loss of feeling in the limbs) and vision trouble. However, as a senior care professional you can help your clients avoid these complications of diabetes. Here are three ways you can assist seniors with diabetes.

1. Encourage adherence to the treatment plan
As you probably know, when a senior receives a diagnosis of diabetes, the health care team usually will create a treatment plan that includes components like medication, diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adhering to the treatment plan can delay or minimize any complications that may arise from diabetes. Offer seniors and their family caregivers encouragement and positive reinforcement about sticking to the care plan. Make sure everyone understands the various components of it.

To help clients educate themselves about a new diabetes diagnosis, suggest resources like the library of information available at the Canadian Diabetes Association website.

2.  Advocate good medication practices
Seniors with Type 2 diabetes may take medication not only for blood sugar control but also for coexisting conditions like hypertension or high cholesterol. Managing a lot of medications can become confusing, especially for people with memory loss or other cognitive decline.

For seniors who need help monitoring their medication regimen, consider suggesting a non-medical helper, like a Home Instead® CAREGiverSM. These aides can provide medication reminders to help seniors stay on track with the many pills they may need to take each day. This in-home assistance can be particularly useful when seniors have no family caregiver available to help remind them.

3. Encourage regular medical follow-up
Some diabetes complications come on so slowly a senior may not realize anything is wrong until it’s almost too late to fix the problem. Encourage seniors to schedule regular follow-up care from eye professionals and primary care providers. These routine visits can identify ‘silent’ complications like diabetic retinopathy (decreased vision), high blood pressure and heart disease in order to secure prompt treatment. If transportation to appointments is an issue, you can suggest alternative solutions.

As rates of Type 2 diabetes continue to grow within the senior population, you may see more and more clients turning to you for advice and information about how to manage this condition. By providing resources and encouragement, you can help seniors and their family caregivers learn to avoid some of the serious complications that can arise from the disease.

Last revised: October 23, 2014

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