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Senior-Friendly Advice for Diabetes Patients

Updated 7/31/2015 3:25pm | Type 2 diabetes among seniors is a common health condition, and Alert1 wants to help all those affected. According to the American Diabetes Association, it affects about 10.9 million adults over 65 -- almost 27% of adults in this age group. Despite its prevalence many diabetic people wait extended periods of time before getting proper diabetes education. New research suggests that many people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes feel overcome when it comes to managing their condition.

Confusion While Living with Diabetes

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Researchers at Queen's University Belfast investigated what typically happens between diagnosis and referral to a diabetes education program. They discovered that many patients were unsure about what foods they could and could not eat. "Patients with type 2 diabetes indicated that there was sometimes a delay between diagnosis and receiving advice about how to self-manage their diabetes," said researcher Dr. Michelle McKinley. "Not surprisingly, many patients felt that they were 'on their own' during this time with no idea what changes to make to their lifestyle or how to set about doing it. It is important that we try to fill this gap with easily accessible information that is specifically designed for people with type 2 diabetes."

 

The study indicates that even though diabetic seniors were told to lower their blood sugar through healthy dietary changes and activity levels, they were not always told exactly how to go about making those changes. Health education for older patients is critical because they have “to break habits of a lifetime” and may be resistant to change. In addition, it can be even more challenging to break old habits if you do not understand how or why the changes make a difference. How will the new foods you are eating affect your blood sugar level? Why will additional exercise improve the way you feel? Answers to questions like these can help motivate a patient to make positive change.

Negative Effects of Type 2 Diabetes

Older adults that don’t manage type two diabetes can suffer long-term health consequences. It’s important that family caregivers intervene early and help manage older adults and their blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can damage and interfere with the following:

  • Heart and blood vessels
  • Kidneys
  • Eyes
  • Nerves, which can lead to trouble with digestion, the feeling in your feet, and your sexual response
  • Wound healing
  • Pregnancy
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Managing the Risks with Type 2 Diabetes

Family caregivers can play a significant role in helping their loved ones manage type 2 diabetes. If you find yourself in this role, you can help your loved one clean out their pantry and start making healthier food choices. Sit down together and review the appropriate serving sizes for different types of food. You will probably be surprised by some of them -- I know I was. Rather than eating a few large meals, diabetes patients should think about eating smaller portions spread throughout the day. Take your loved one grocery shopping and read the labels for them. It can be hard to read that tiny print. You will need to stress the importance of limiting their sugar intake, but you should also encourage them to eat a variety of whole grains, as well as limit their fat and sodium intake. When you visit, restock your loved one’s freezer with healthy, diabetes friendly home cooked meals. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a carefully crafted diet can help lower blood sugar. As always, when assisting your loved one with any health care needs, consult with their primary caregiver or specialist first.

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Alert1 wants to know: do you or a loved one have diabetes? How did you learn to properly manage your diabetes? Was your health care professional a valuable resource?

Sources

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/snu-pwd103012.php