Diabetes and the Elderly: An Overview
There are nearly 11 million seniors in the U.S. living with diabetes, a chronic condition that occurs when the body can’t produce or effectively use insulin.
These numbers are only expected to rise as the elderly population continues to grow.
As a family caregiver, however, there is much to learn about diabetes besides glucose levels and needles. Today’s blog will go over the basics of what you and your aging loved one need to know about the disease. Of course, if you have any questions, you should consult your doctor.
What causes diabetes?
The exact causes of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are unknown, although genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors are believed to be large factors. What is known is that as a person ages, their risk of developing diabetes rises. And some ethnicities are at greater risk, including American Indians, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.
Type 1, or type 2?
There are two main types of diabetes:
In type 1 diabetes, the body is no longer able to make insulin due to the body’s immune system attacking and effectively destroying the cells where insulin was once made. Type 1 typically first occurs in children and young adults, who must inject insulin into their blood every day to control glucose levels. Without the insulin, people with type 1 diabetes will die.
Type 1 diabetes can develop suddenly in some cases. Common symptoms include (via idf.org):
- Abnormal thirst, dry mouth
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained increase in appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slow-healing wounds
- Recurring infections
- Frequent urination
While young to middle-aged adults with type 1 diabetes can lead a normal life through strict monitoring and treatment of their condition, the same is much more difficult forÂ older adults with type 1. Older adults are far more prone to developing other chronic conditions, which can drastically affect their ability to properly care for themselves.
The other, most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. With this type of diabetes, the body can produce insulin, but it either doesn’t produce enough, or the body isn’t able to use it as well as it should. Type 2 can take years to surface, with subtle symptoms that often go undiagnosed. It’s during this time that the body is being damaged due to excess blood glucose.
Common risk factors for type 2 diabetes include (via idf.org):
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Increasing age
- History of family diabetes
- Ethnicity (see above)
- Poor nutrition during pregnancy (may affect developing child)
People with type 2 diabetes (usually) do not have to take daily doses of insulin to survive, it’s still common to be prescribed insulin with other medication.
Of course, a healthy diet and regular exercise help manage the condition as well. But like type 1, senior diabetics, who are more prone to developing other ailments such as heart disease and dementia, face a new set of challenges in managing their diabetes.
An increasingly complicated medication regimen, paired with deteriorating health, vision and motor skills often leads to a family caregiver or professional health care service stepping in to offer much-needed help.
Physicians’ Choice Private Duty Assisted Living currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of geriatric care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. Get your free Cost Comparison guide by clicking here. Or contact us for a free consultation or just to say hello!
“Physicians’ Choice Private Duty Assisted Living solves the challenges families face in caring for aging parents, with a focus on strategies that keep them in their homes. To learn more about our solutions, visit http://www.private-duty.pchhc.com.”