Diabetes mellitus is a medical condition with two common causes. Either your body either doesn’t make enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or it isn’t able to use its insulin (Type 2 diabetes).
Both types have similar results in the body. Your cells can’t take in the sugar they need to make energy, and it builds up in your bloodstream as a result. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage your organs and cause health problems.
Diabetes is a common condition, especially in seniors. Fortunately, seniors can avoid many of the most serious complications from diabetes by getting good medical care and making some lifestyle changes.
Here are some tips for how you can help your senior parent avoid diabetes complications.
How many seniors have diabetes?
Diabetes is a widespread chronic health condition. Estimates are that one in 11 adults in the world has diabetes. About 90% of these adults have Type 2 diabetes.
Medical researchers estimate that 29.2% of seniors age 65 and older have diabetes in the US. That’s nearly 16 million seniors at risk for serious health consequences if their condition isn’t treated.
Is your parent one of them? If so, you may be wondering what you can help them do to avoid diabetes complications.
You can help your parent manage their diabetes and control their blood sugars. This can potentially avoid difficulties that can rob them of their health and independence in their golden years.
What are diabetes complications?
The complications of uncontrolled diabetes can affect the whole body. Some of the most common include, for example:
Diabetic ketoacidosis (an emergency condition caused by severely high blood sugar levels)
Decreased ability to fight infections
Healthcare providers agree that the outcome of diabetes is significantly influenced by how well the patient can control their blood sugar levels. Suppose your parent can keep their blood sugar levels in check (finger stick results between 90 to 130 mg/dL). In that case, they may be able to avoid diabetes complications.
How seniors can avoid diabetes complications
Treating diabetes can be complex. As a result, it often involves several medications and some changes in your parent’s lifestyle. These can sometimes be difficult to keep up with. But helping your parent to keep up with their medications and healthy lifestyle will help them stay healthy and independent for longer.
Keep sugar levels in check
Your parent’s healthcare provider will develop a treatment plan to keep their blood sugar levels in check. It’s vital that they understand the steps and follow them.
These medicines can include different types of insulin injections or pills and injections that help your parent’s body use insulin more effectively.
A home health nurse is a great resource for a newly diagnosed parent. For instance, they can help your parent:
Understand their new diagnosis and medications
Get used to checking their blood sugar levels
Learn what to do if they are too high or too low
Understand what nutrition they need to stay healthy
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a heart-healthy, diabetes-friendly diet isn’t just good for avoiding diabetes complications. It will also help you feel better all around.
Eating balanced meals will help your parent keep their blood sugar levels stable, provide energy throughout the day, and prevent cravings for sugary foods.
Your parent’s ideal diet will depend on their medical conditions, but a healthy diet typically includes:
Minimally processed foods
Manage your health conditions
People with diabetes are often at risk for other medical conditions. If one or more of these conditions isn’t well-controlled, it can actually affect your parent’s blood sugar levels. That’s why it’s important to manage other health conditions to help avoid diabetes complications.
Some standard screening that your parent with diabetes should also have regularly include:
Poor fitness is a barrier to healthy aging. Help your parent exercise regularly and be as active as possible throughout the day. Regular physical activity will help them to manage their blood sugars and promote:
Activities such as walking, gentle yoga, and lifting light weights are great for seniors.
Get a yearly eye exam
Diabetes can lead to a host of eye problems that can affect your parent’s vision. These include cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy for instance. Poor blood sugar control can make these complications even worse.
To help avoid this complication of diabetes, help your parent to get regular yearly eye exams.
Take care of your feet
Seniors with diabetes are at greater risk for foot ulcers. This is because diabetes affects the blood flow and nerves in the feet. A small cut could easily go unnoticed and then get infected. Then, high blood sugars can make it difficult for these wounds to heal.
Smoking negatively affects your heart and blood vessels. Diabetes does the same. Consequently, this causes a double strain on your cardiovascular system. If your parent has diabetes, encourage them to stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
There is also some evidence that smokers with diabetes have a harder time controlling their blood sugars than nonsmokers. Since managing blood sugar is the key to avoiding diabetes complications, smokers have an even bigger reason to quit.
See your doctor regularly
It’s important to make sure that your parent has a primary care provider that they visit regularly. This is especially true if they have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes. Your parent’s doctor can:
Monitor blood sugar levels and other lab work
Start and adjust medications
Treat complications of diabetes before they get worse
Coordinate referrals to specialists
Order home care services that are often covered by insurance
Home health nursing can help avoid diabetes complications
Parentis Health is here to assist your senior parent in avoiding diabetes complications. We offer services including: