November is Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada and November 14th is World Diabetes Day. There’s no better time to address the care issues faced by thousands of Canadians, the majority of which are seniors.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body uses blood sugar. It has the potential to cause serious complications when not properly controlled. Unfortunately, seniors – the most affected population – often have trouble managing diabetes on their own.
Aging and diabetes
Managing diabetes often involves a combination of medication and a diet and exercise. The condition often goes hand-in-hand with other conditions, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol – both of which also require medication and a healthy lifestyle to manage. Diabetes also raises the risk of depression and cognitive impairment – something many older adults already struggle with.
Controlling diabetes can become increasingly difficult as we get older. Age-related memory issues can make it difficult to remember to take diabetes medication or insulin. Mobility issues, lack of exercise, and menopause can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, which can also worsen diabetes.
Caring for your parent with diabetes
Some people make managing their diabetes seem effortless. Perhaps your parent has spent years living a very healthy and active life with little to no mention of their condition. The reality is that controlling diabetes gets more difficult as the years go on and it needs to be considered when planning senior care.
The following are some things to consider when caring for a senior with diabetes:
- Blood glucose monitoring
- Meal planning to ensure healthy, consistent meals to avoid hypoglycemia
- Medication, such as metformin
- Administering of insulin injections
- Medical appointments to check for eye problems, circulatory issues, and other diabetes complications
- Weight management
- Dental checkups (diabetes can worsen dental health)
- Talking to your parent
Talking to your aging parent about their diabetes is important. It can help you understand what their care routine involves. It’s also a good way to gauge how well they’re managing their diabetes and spot red flags, like irritability and low energy.
Look for signs that taking care of their diabetes is becoming more difficult, like trouble holding their hands steady for a blood glucose test or insulin shot, forgetting to take their medication, or not eating as well as they should be.
Have an honest discussion with your parent about their condition and care requirements. Be realistic about what you’re able to do as far as caregiving. Keep in mind your other responsibilities, the amount of time and energy needed to care for a senior with diabetes, and even whether or not you think you’ll be able to do things like administer an insulin injection or perform a finger prick. Not everyone has the stomach for it and that’s okay!
In-home care for diabetes
The right care can help keep your parent’s diabetes well-controlled and minimize the risk of life-altering complications. It also allows seniors with diabetes and other health issues to age in the comfort of their own home, which can also have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.
A professional senior care provider can assist with:
- healthy meal planning and preparation
- medication, including insulin injections
- blood glucose monitoring
- medical appointments
- other errands, such as groceries, picking up prescriptions, etc.
In-home care providers are also act as another set of eyes so that can catch changes in your parent’s condition when you’re not able to be there.
Talk to your parent about their needs and work together on a care plan that you’re all comfortable with. Good planning and the right help can make all the difference.
David Porter, CPCA
Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care
Diabetes Awareness Month Canada 2019. Canadian Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-awareness-month
Diabetes in Canada. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/diabetes-canada-highlights-chronic-disease-surveillance-system.html