Type 2 Diabetes, characterized by the inability of the body to process sugar properly, is a preventable and treatable disease rising to almost epidemic levels in the United States. In senior citizens, diabetes can be very problematic, making the body more prone to infection, slowed healing, and organ failure. Renaissance’s home care programs in NYC are excellent at assisting in the prevention or management of diabetes in seniors, but there are some ways you can help your loved one from developing it in the first place.
Diabetes in Seniors
It is particularly important for seniors not to contract diabetes, as it can make them much more susceptible to developing conditions that damage organs in the body and fighting off illness. Even worse, there are typically no obvious signs that Type 2 Diabetes is developing other than increased and more frequent urination. When someone has Type 2 Diabetes, they will often exhibit:
- Fatigue and chronic weakness
- Weight gain or loss
- Numb, tingling, or burning extremities due to a decrease in circulation and nerve damage
- Blurred vision and problems focusing
- Red, inflamed gums, as a result of gum disease
- Frequent infections or slow healing sores
Complications from diabetes can be quite serious and if left uncontrolled, any of these diabetes complications in seniors can occur:
- Cardiovascular disease– risks of heart attack and stroke are greatly increased, and your levels of good cholesterol (HDL) are lowered while bad cholesterol (LDL) is increased.
- Infection – since your immune system is affected, so is your ability to fight off bacteria and viruses and to heal infected tissue.
- Nerve damage– injuries to extremities may go unnoticed because of lack of feeling, which may result in serious damage, even requiring amputation in some cases.
- Eye damage– most diabetes sufferers experience blood vessel deterioration in the retina, and many will suffer a loss of vision.
- Kidney damage– diabetes can damage kidney function and lead to kidney disease, which affects your body’s ability to excrete waste in your urine.
Guidelines for Preventing Diabetes in the Elderly
Your loved one may be at higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes if:
- They are overweight – even a small weight loss is beneficial because excess fat increases the resistance to insulin, which is necessary to metabolize blood sugar.
- They are stressed or depressed – mental health issues raise blood sugar levels and have effects on insulin production.
- There is a history of diabetes in the family – diabetes is not genetic per se, but you may have a predisposition to it.
It is important that your loved one do everything they can to prevent Type 2 diabetes. Managing diabetes in seniors is also important if they have already developed it. To this end, your loved one may need to:
- Maintain a healthy weight – whether through a healthier, diabetes diet for the elderly and/or proper exercise.
- Eliminate fat and sugar from the diet – usually through eating more vegetables and whole grains while decreasing animal fats and sugars.
- Eliminate stress – self-care is important, as are relaxing activities and mindfulness, and doing things that you enjoy.
Managing Diabetes in the Elderly with Renaissance
The caregivers of Renaissance, both those with our adult day care program and those in our home care program, can assist you and your loved one with diabetes prevention and management. In addition to maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, such as providing nutritious snacks, Renaissance provides many opportunities for senior-friendly exercise and physical recreation, such as adult day trips to walking museums or through exercise activities, such as yoga.