Diabetes is becoming an increasingly common diagnosis among older adults. If your parent has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be wondering what you can do to help. Many adults manage diabetes without assistance, but as your parents age, other factors may come into play. Here are some ideas on how you can help your parent manage diabetes.
Understanding Diabetes and Its Consequences
Diabetes is quite prevalent, with 9.1% of the population having the disease. Over 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed each year. However, a large majority of diabetes cases are undiagnosed, which can lead to significant consequences. Diabetes is especially common amongst seniors. Approximately 25.8% of Americans age 65 and over have diabetes, although not all are diagnosed.
Despite how common the disease is, diabetes is nothing to trifle with. It remains the 7th leading cause of death, and can cause a host of complications. Some of the typical medical conditions that accompany diabetes are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, and eye problems. Diabetes is also associated with an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, as well as causing issues that may require limbs to be amputated. About 60% of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations among people aged 20 years or older occur in people with diagnosed diabetes.
Typically, diabetes is managed in multiple ways and you should always consult your parent’s doctor or care provider prior to making drastic changes in diet and routine. Here are some of the more common methods of managing diabetes:
- Lowering Carbohydrates. Diabetes patients can help manage their blood sugar levels by consuming a diet low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have the biggest impact of any food on blood sugar levels, and your parent may be advised to keep their carbohydrate consumption below a specific number of grams per day.
- Coordinating Meals and Medication. As your parent incorporates diabetes medication into their routine, they will likely be given specific instructions on how soon to eat before or after taking the medicine. It’s important to ensure the prescription is followed to get the full benefit of the medication.
- Exercise. Exercise, which must be carefully coordinated with eating and medication schedules, is an important way to improve overall fitness and manage diabetes. A small snack before exercising may be needed to balance blood sugar levels.
- Insulin. Insulin is the most common medication given to manage diabetes. It must be stored at specific temperatures and used before the expiration date. Your parent should report any issues with Insulin to the doctor right away. Dosages may need to be adjusted or over-the-counter medicines eliminated if they are interfering with the treatment.
- Avoid Alcohol. Alcohol can aggravate complications associate with diabetes, like nerve damage or eye disease in diabetic patients. If your parent’s doctor approves alcohol on occasion, your parent will want to choose lower-carbohydrate versions and make sure not to drink on an empty stomach.
Helping Your Parent Manage Diabetes
If your parent has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be nervous for them and wonder what the long-term implications will be for their health. There are many ways you can help your parents manage diabetes, but have a conversation with your parent before you take over. Here are four tips to get you started:
- Education. One of the best things you can do is learn everything you can about diabetes and how it is treated. If your parent will let you come to doctor’s appointments, do so – you’ll get a better understanding for how diabetes is affecting your parent as an individual.
- Know the Signs of High and Low Blood Sugar. Knowing what the symptoms of blood sugar imbalance are is an important way to help your parent with diabetes. You can notice when they seem off or when something is wrong, which will help you prompt them to eat, take medication, or rest as needed.
- Notice Your Parent’s Self-Care. While you definitely don’t want to be a nag, you do want to pay attention to your parent’s ability to keep up with the diabetes treatment regimen. If you notice they could use reminders, or that they need more help, you might consider part-time home care.
- Consider Additional Help. Your parent may benefit from a diabetes support group to avoid isolation or depression. If you are your parent’s caregiver, consider getting part-time in-home health care to help so that you can take a break. You can’t take care of your parent unless you also take care of yourself!
Whenever your parent faces serious health problems, it can seem overwhelming. Diabetes is a serious illness, but fortunately treatments are well-known and fully proven. To learn more about what help is available for those living with diabetes, or to find additional caregiving assistance, contact Team Select Home Care at the location nearest you. We’re here to help your parent live a long and healthy life!