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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on November 25th, 2014

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Simple Ways to Help Your Loved One Manage His or Her Diabetes

assisted living | caregiver information | 60-day stay trial | diabetes | Aging & Caregiving

diabetesNearly 30 million kids and adults in the U.S. have diabetes and an additional 86 million Americans are at risk for developing the disease.

The percentage of Americans with diabetes who are over the age of 65 is particularly high: 11.8 million seniors are living with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.

If your aging loved one is among the 26 percent of older Americans affected by this quickly growing disease, the observation of American Diabetes Month in November offers an ideal opportunity to help him/her live well with the disease.

Communication Counts

If your parent has been managing his/her illness until now, the first step is to determine whether your help is necessary. If you’ve begun to notice age-related changes, such as memory loss, vision problems, or a decline in fine motor skills, this may indicate that your parent's ability to perform diabetes self-care is also declining.

Opening the lines of communication can help you work together toward a solution. Whether your loved one needs help administering insulin or keeping track of his/her pillbox, you can provide help where it is needed while still fostering critical independence.

If It Ain't Broke...

Introducing a new regimen can be overwhelming or frustrating to an older patient -- particular due to the decline in brain function as we age. You may feel like your aging loved one is being stubborn, but the fact is that he/she may be unable to effectively change behaviors.

Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel -- and meeting opposition every step of the way -- work with what your loved one already knows. After all, if he or she has been managing the diabetes for 20 years, this system has obviously worked.

Of course, if you feel like your parent's health and wellness is in jeopardy, additional measures may be required. Chat with your loved one’s physician about developing a plan in these circumstances.

Educate Yourself 

The more you know about diabetes, the more easily you can recognize early warning signs and stop a bad situation from becoming worse. Personality changes -- such as irritability -- can indicate unbalanced blood sugar levels. Other symptoms include frequent urination, nausea, extreme hunger or thirst, blurred vision, shaking, sweating, dizziness, fatigue, and a fast heartbeat.  

While dietary changes and exercise can improve glucose levels, changing your loved one’s lifelong habits can be a challenge. The best way to encourage healthy behaviors? Follow the same diet and/or exercise regimen. This show of solidarity may inspire positive change. 

Mental Health Matters

You may already be aware that seniors are at increased risk of depression. However, seniors with diabetes are not only two times more likely to suffer from depression, but also live with twice the risk of premature death. Researchers believe this may be because depressed people are less likely to adhere to diabetes self-care measures, such as taking medication, glucose monitoring, diet and exercise. 

Mental health screenings are critical for seniors with diabetes. For those who screen positively, a strong support network offers an additional preventative measure.

For more information on helping your aging loved one cope with diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association’s website for valuable tips on everything from planning meals to fitness and weight loss. And remember: while living with diabetes may be an adjustment, you can help your parent lead a happy and healthy life by following a prescribed treatment plan.

Key Takeaways

  • The first step in helping your aging loved one manage his/her diabetes is opening the lines of communication.
  • Attempts at overhauling your loved one’s diabetes self-care regimen are likely to meet resistance; instead, work with him/her to determine the most useful support.
  • Educating yourself about diabetes -- and showing solidarity by adopting healthy lifestyle practices -- can be a valuable way of helping your loved one manage his/her condition.
  • Diabetes, depression and increased mortality rates are connected in older Americans, so be sure your loved one undergoes routine mental health screenings.
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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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