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World Diabetes Day: Managing Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, which educates people about the ways in which diabetes is becoming more prevalent in the world each year. 

As a whole, the elderly are particularly susceptible to type 2 diabetes, and as such, family members are placed at the cornerstone of the management, prevention and general education around the disease. 

With the correct food and lifestyle choices coupled with professional care assistance, it can be better managed, allowing for your loved one to continue to live a full life irrespective of the diagnosis.

World Diabetes Day 2019

World Diabetes Day takes place on 14 November 2019, and the theme for this year is ‘Family and Diabetes’. The day shines light on type 1 and type 2 diabetes, with a focus on the way it impacts families as a whole. A well informed support system, which considers the physical, mental and emotional challenges ahead, makes a world of difference after a diabetes diagnosis.

Diabetes in the Elderly

Diabetes is fairly common in the elderly, with recent estimates indicating that 50% of people living with type 2 diabetes are unaware that they are living with it. It’s also commonly known that type 1 diabetes may be hereditary, but few people know that type 2, which is largely more stigmatised than type 1, is preventable and manageable with a few lifestyle changes.

Keep in mind that your loved one may be feeling a heightened sense of shame while dealing with their diagnosis. If you have an elderly parent or grandparent with diabetes, you should tell them that knowing about it is half the battle won, and that you’re proud of them for wanting to do something about it.

Managing Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly

When it comes to giving an older person advice on how to deal with their diabetes, it may help to gently nudge them into a direction of making these lifestyle changes:

  • Making Healthier Food Choices: Better choices about what they are eating will help with the management of blood glucose levels and encourage glycemic control.
     
  • Continuing an Active Lifestyle: The human body was not designed to lead a sedentary life, but increasingly that is the reality for many older people. Keeping up with activities such as walking will improve their mobility, reduce muscle weakening, and also improve their overall mental health.
     
  • Vigilance Around Hypoglycemia: Ask your loved one about sleep disturbances and morning headaches. Keep track of unusual personality changes or reduced concentration.
     
  • A View Towards Better Self Care: As people get older they may find it harder to generate the physical energy to engage in self care activities they banked on previously. Ask them about physical changes to their bodies and don’t automatically dismiss changes as “part of the aging process”. Get a second opinion where possible.
     
  • Encouraging a Positive Attitude: Most people are frightened by any diagnosis, and dealing with diabetes can increase feelings of helplessness and depression. Go gently in your interactions with them, especially shortly after the diagnosis, and encourage positive affirmations too.

Lessening The Burden Through Residential and Nursing Care

It can be hard for older people to cope with diabetes while living alone. If your parent or grandparent is finding it hard to come to terms with the diagnosis – which is especially tough if they’re a widow or widower – it may be worth exploring some options around residential care with the rest of the family.

This could take away the collective worry of the family, and also provide your loved one with the care and support that they need. An option including nursing care, for example, means that medical professionals are always on hand to assist, which gives you peace of mind, and ensures that help is never too far away.

Westgate Healthcare is proud to offer exceptional services at all of our care homes that make dealing with diabetes easier for residents. 

  • We partner with Catering Academy to offer well-balanced, nutritious meal plans which help to manage blood sugar levels
  • We partner with Oomph! to offer regular exercise programmes and activities that keep residents physically healthy and mentally engaged
  • We have highly trained staff on hand who can spot any warning signs for diabetes 

With these initiatives in place, a collective effort towards better health can be made using all available resources. 

It Takes a Village

In conjunction with better health choices, emotional and physical support, and further education around management of the disease, your loved one can continue leading a full life, while being surrounded by the family network. When it comes to supporting an elderly family member with diabetes, it takes a village, but with professional assistance to facilitate the process, the burden can be lessened to some extent.

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