As you are probably aware, diabetes is a condition that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body doesn’t properly respond to insulin. Diabetes can increase the risk of a range of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and more. While there is no known cure for this chronic condition, taking a proactive approach to managing diabetes can go a long way toward keeping the body healthy and maintaining a good quality of life.
Older Adults at Risk
Middle aged and older adults are among those most at risk of diabetes. In the United States, 22-33 percent of adults aged 65 and over have diabetes (depending on the diagnostic criteria used), according to research from the American Diabetes Association. Worryingly, this trend looks set to worsen over the coming years; the number of adults aged 75 years and over with diabetes is projected to increase by about 450 percent by 2050.
With these figures in mind, it’s vital that those caring for older adults have at least a basic understanding of diabetes management. We’ve rounded up a few general tips to help you take care of elderly loved ones living with diabetes.
Focus on Slow and Steady Progression
Diabetes management requires a multi-faceted approach that usually includes medication as well as making changes to the patient’s diet, lifestyle and exercise habits. When implementing these changes, it’s important to focus on slow and steady progression as older adults with diabetes cannot adapt to fast, dramatic changes in the same way that younger people can. Instead, set achievable milestones such as taking a short daily walk, or losing a small amount of weight, and continue making positive adjustments in the months ahead. Diabetes management is a marathon, not a sprint, and a daily step in the right direction will help your loved ones on their journey to a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Teamwork Is Key
It goes without saying that you want the best for your loved ones, but it’s important to be mindful of how you communicate these feelings when caring for an older adult with diabetes. Diabetes can be quite an isolating condition, so consider breaking down these barriers by tackling the problem as a team and making some changes to your own lifestyle. For example, as their carer, you could show your solidarity by giving up sugar-sweetened beverages or set aside some time each week to do some light exercise with your loved one. Encouraging self-care without being overbearing or patronising is critical for helping older adults with diabetes make positive changes.
Be Mindful of Mental Health
As noted, diabetes can lead to a variety of serious physical ailments, but it can also take its toll on a person’s mental health, too. For example, people with diabetes are about 1.4-3 times more likely to have depression than non-diabetics, as noted in a review from the University of Ioannina, Greece. As a caregiver, try to stay in tune with your loved one’s emotional well-being, make yourself available to discuss their needs, and don’t hesitate to contact a physician if you notice adverse changes in their personality or day to day habits.
It’s also important to be aware of your own mental health. Caring for someone can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining, so be sure to take care of yourself in addition to the needs of your loved ones.
Caring for an older adult with diabetes has its challenges, but it can also be very rewarding for parent and child alike. By encouraging self-care and being mindful of their mental health, you’ll be able to provide the support your loved ones need to make positive changes in their life.