10 Tips for Caring for an Elderly Person with Diabetes

Elderly people have different health issues than younger adults, including diabetes, which affects millions of seniors in the United States. Living with diabetes as you age can be challenging, but there are ways to ensure that your elderly loved one has the best possible quality of life while he or she manages the disease. These 10 tips will help you care for an elderly person with diabetes safely and confidently, helping you both stay healthy and happy together.

1) Their Diet is Extremely Important


A diabetic diet must be followed carefully to ensure a good blood glucose level. A properly planned diet will help maintain steady blood sugar levels. Avoid foods and beverages that contain refined sugars, as well as any food products that contain fructose corn syrup, sucrose or maltose. These types of sugars have very little nutritional value and can affect your blood glucose significantly. It is also important to avoid simple carbohydrates because they are digested quickly and are often found in snack foods like candy bars, chips and cookies.

2) The Elderly Are at Risk of Falls and Other Accidents


The elderly are at high risk of falling, in part because of age-related health problems that affect their ability to move and balance. (As we age, our sense of balance declines.) In addition, they may have vision problems or hearing loss that make it harder to identify dangerous situations. If a senior has diabetes, these risks increase. Because diabetics are more likely to develop problems such as peripheral neuropathy and arthritis that can impair movement, they’re also more likely to slip and fall.

3) They May Need Special Equipment


Because diabetes can affect many parts of your body, it’s possible that your loved one will have to use a cane or walker to help him get around. In some cases, a wheelchair may be necessary. For safety reasons and so he doesn’t slip on floors that are wet or covered in snow, find out what kind of equipment your elderly person needs so you can adjust his environment appropriately.

4) They Can’t Open Jar Caps Easily


If you have a loved one who is diabetic and has limited hand dexterity, it can be a challenge to open jar caps. While I don’t recommend giving someone a bottle of sparkling water every time they need to open something, there are tools that can help. The Easy Off Jar Opener by OXO is a tool designed to handle any size lid (it works on even those little baby food jars) and comes with its own set of replacement parts.

5) Their Medicines Are Different Than What We’re Used To


Understanding your loved one’s disease and medications is key to helping them out when they need you. They may have a lot of pills to take and different doses, depending on what stage their disease is in and what activities they are doing. Helping them understand how all of these things work together—and teaching them about their medicines—will help keep them safe.

6) They Need More Blood Glucose Monitoring


Your loved one with diabetes needs to check his or her blood glucose levels on a regular basis. Most elderly people may require some assistance when it comes to blood glucose monitoring, so make sure you are able to provide that. If your loved one is checking his or her own blood glucose, he or she may need another person’s help in order to reach all parts of their body where finger pricks can be done. Help your parent out by being ready and willing to assist in any way possible!

7) Have Them Tested Often For Infections And Other Conditions


Keeping your loved one’s diabetes under control helps them live a healthier life, but it also helps ward off infections and other conditions that tend to complicate diabetes. If you’re caring for an elderly person with diabetes, it’s essential to make sure they get regular checkups from their doctor and dental care from a dentist who is experienced in treating diabetics. You should also encourage them to wear clean socks (to prevent blisters) and change their shoes as often as needed.

8) Anticipate the Need for Skilled Nursing Facility Care


A trip to a skilled nursing facility can happen suddenly, or it can be a result of gradual declines in health. Either way, try to anticipate when you might need to enter a nursing home and make sure your finances are ready. You’ll want to do your research about which facilities are within your area and select one that is close by so you don’t have to worry about extra travel expenses. Arrange for private duty care if possible.

9) Help Them Avoid Hypoglycemia


As with any disease, diabetes comes with its own unique challenges and set of problems. In order to properly care for a person who is suffering from diabetes, you must learn about hypoglycemia, a potentially dangerous condition that occurs when there is not enough glucose in a person’s bloodstream. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures or unconsciousness; it is essential that someone caring for an elderly diabetic be able to recognize signs of hypoglycemia and know how to treat it quickly.

10) Ask them what they need from you and listen


The old saying, You can’t care for others until you care for yourself couldn’t be more true. Making time to exercise, eat well and get enough sleep is crucial to caring for others. Don’t forget that elderly people require special attention. Make sure they are wearing shoes that fit well and are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Sit them down regularly so they don’t lose their balance or try climbing stairs when they should stay seated in a chair.

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