According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Around six million Americans aged 65 and over suffer from diabetes; another 23 million seniors are considered to be prediabetic. Unfortunately, many seniors with diabetes don’t even realize they have it. However, if left untreated, diabetes can cause serious health problems affecting the kidneys, heart, brain, eyes, and feet. When you care for an aging loved one, knowing the signs and symptoms of diabetes in older adults can help them live longer and more productive lives.
What causes diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects the body’s use of glucose (sugar) for growth, repair, and energy. This process is regulated by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. With optimal performance, the pancreas releases just the right amount of insulin to facilitate the transport of glucose from the blood to the body’s cells.
But the pancreas in a diabetic’s body either produces too much or too little insulin. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood and is excreted in the urine. The body’s cells are then deprived of their main fuel source, even if there is enough glucose available.
What types of diabetes are there?
There are 2 chronic types of diabetes:
This rarer form of diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system starts targeting the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The resulting damage causes the pancreas to release little or no insulin, which is why type 1 diabetics have to take insulin daily to survive.
Most diabetics are type 2, the elderly and / or overweight. In type 2 diabetics, the pancreas produces a lot of glucose, but for some reason it is not used efficiently – a condition known as insulin resistance. When the blood sugar level rises, symptoms usually appear in a patient. However, some type 2 diabetics remain asymptomatic and only realize that they have it much later.
What are the signs of diabetes?
If you suspect that a senior has diabetes, look for the following signs and symptoms:
- Excessive thirst and hunger
- Frequent urination
- Inexplicable weight loss
- One of the symptoms mentioned above
- Wounds that never heal or heal slowly
- Blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
Someone with uncontrolled diabetes is at high risk for heart disease and stroke, kidney damage, vision and hearing loss, poor blood circulation, foot problems, and other health problems. If this person is an aging senior, their freedom and independence can quickly be compromised. If any of these signs appear in your loved one, have them examined by a doctor who can then order blood and urine tests.
Caring for a senior citizen with diabetes
As a caregiver, you can help a senior manage his or her illness by:
Diet. Get a copy of the “Create Your Plate” diet from the American Diabetes Association and help them prepare nutritious meals based on these ADA guidelines.
Medication reminders. Regardless of whether it is type 1 insulin or oral medication that otherwise controls blood sugar levels, it is important that your loved ones adhere to the medication.
Exercise. If you exercise 3 to 5 times a week, you can normalize your glucose levels and lose excess pounds. So encourage your senior to do this.
Glucose monitoring. Turn daily glucose checks into a contest and reward loved ones for keeping their sugar under control by taking them to the park or for a manicure.
Lifestyle changes. Smoking, sugary foods, alcohol and soda are harmful to people with diabetes. Encourage your loved ones to throw these bad habits on the side of the road.
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