In old age, several people are prone to diabetes. If not managed well, this disease can have serious effects on the elder's health and can even lead to heart diseases. The elder's diet and lifestyle play a major role in the onset, control, and management of this disease. Therefore, as a Caregiver for an elder, it is important for you to learn about this disease and how you can contribute to managing it.
Diabetes is a condition in which glucose or sugar level in the blood becomes very high. Let us learn why this happens.
When we eat, the digestive system breaks down food.The carbohydrates in the food are broken down into a simple sugar called glucose.The glucose moves into the bloodstream and the Blood sugar levels increase.The Pancreas senses this increase and releases a Hormone called insulin into the bloodstream.As the glucose moves to various Muscle Cells in the body, insulin helps the Muscle Cells to absorb the glucose.The Muscle Cells use the absorbed glucose to produce energy for various actions performed by our body.
For a person who has diabetes, there is less insulin in the bloodstream or the insulin is not used properly.As a result, the glucose is not absorbed by the Muscle Cells and the glucose or sugar level in the blood becomes very high.
Diabetes has an adverse effect on various parts of the body such as the eyes, Kidneys, Nerves, heart, brain, Arteries, and feet.
The symptoms of Diabetes include excessive hunger, excessive thirst, increased urination, weight loss, tiredness, blurred vision, and prolonged healing of wounds. If you notice these symptoms in the elder, inform their family or doctor.
Now let us learn how you can help the elder manage their diabetic condition.
When the elder under your care finds out for the first time that they have diabetes, they may get shocked, worried, angry, or anxious.Be patient and sympathetic.Explain to them that you are there to help them control and manage this condition.
The elder's doctor may prescribe medications or insulin injections.Make sure the elder takes them on time.In addition, the doctor may recommend testing of Blood sugar levels once to several times a day.This makes it important for you to learn how to test Blood sugar levels at home.
The doctor may advise you to check the Blood sugar after fasting for at least eight hours, before meals, and after meals.
You can check the Blood sugar level for the elder using an electronic device called a glucose meter.Ask the elder to wash their hands with soap and dry them.You should also wash and dry your hands.Remove a Test strip from the container.Remember to replace the cap to prevent damage to the strips.Insert the Test strip into the meter.Prick the elder's finger with the needle or lancet provided.To make the prick less painful, remember to prick the side of the finger, rather than the tip.Gently squeeze the finger until a drop of blood forms.Touch the test strip to the blood.Make sure the strip does not touch the skin.Note the Blood sugar reading on the meter screen.Record the results along with the date and time of the test.
The doctor may set target Blood sugar levels for the elder based on factors such as type and severity of Diabetes and other medical conditions.For many people who have diabetes, target levels range from 90 to 130 milligrams per deciliter after fasting for at least eight hours, 70 to 130 milligrams per deciliter before meals, and lower than 180 milligrams per deciliter one to two hours after meals.
If the elder complains of restlessness, sweating, or tiredness, test the elder's Blood sugar immediately. These symptoms may indicate low Blood sugar or hypoglycemia. This condition may arise due to the elder taking Diabetes medications to lower Blood sugar. In this case, ask the elder to eat something high in sugar and inform the elder's doctor.
Diabetes can have an adverse effect on a person's heart and Blood pressure. So, in addition to testing the Blood sugar level, the doctor may also direct you to test the elder's Blood pressure regularly.
Let us first understand what Blood pressure is.Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the Artery walls.There are two types of Blood pressures you need to measure, systolic Blood pressure and diastolic Blood pressure.The systolic reading represents the pressure the blood flow puts on the walls of an Artery after the heart beats.The diastolic reading represents the pressure your blood flow puts on the walls when your heart relaxes between contractions.
Before you measure the elder's Blood pressure, ensure the elder is seated in a comfortable chair with the back supported and legs and ankles uncrossed.Request the elder to avoid talking for three to five minutes.Keep a notepad or a chart ready to record date, time, and Blood pressure.
To measure Blood pressure, use a digital Sphygmomanometer.Ask the elder to sit still and place their arm at heart level.Move Clothing out of the way.Wrap the cuff around the upper arm.The cuff should be an inch above the elbow.The cuff should not be too loose or too tight.Ensure two fingers space between the arm and the cuff.Start the machine.Note the systolic Blood pressure and diastolic Blood pressure readings.If possible, take another reading after ten minutes.
The normal systolic Blood pressure ranges from 110 millimeters of mercury to 140 millimeters of mercury and the normal diastolic Blood pressure ranges from 60 millimeters of mercury to 90 millimeters of mercury.
If you find the Blood pressure to be consistently high or low, inform the family and the doctor. Share information about the elder's sleep pattern, fluid intake, food intake, medicines are taken, and anxiety experienced in the past few days.
Apart from medications and regular testing of the elder's Blood sugar and Blood pressure levels, the person's diet and lifestyle play a major role in the control and management of diabetes.
Make sure that you serve them a balanced diet as per the Diabetes diet pyramid. You may need to limit the elder's sugar and starch intake, as advised by the elder's doctor. The diet should also help maintain the elder's ideal weight. Excess body weight may further increase the dangers of diabetes.
Another point you should remember is that high Blood sugar or excessive medications may make the person want to eat more. Therefore, it is important for you to serve food not as per the elder's appetite, which may not indicate their natural hunger. Instead, plan to serve small frequent meals. Encourage the elder to eat on time. Serve salad with cooked food. Serve fruits at a separate time, and not with a meal.
Regular exercise is important for everyone. However, for an elder with diabetes, it is even more important. Make sure they are involved in some form of exercise most days of the week. Depending upon the comfort, ability, and interest of the elder, choose an activity such as walking, cycling, practicing yoga, or swimming. Encourage them to stay active through the day and perform routine activities Independently.
A person with Diabetes requires very good foot care. If the elder under your care has Diabetes and problems such as neuropathy or lack of feeling in the feet, poor circulation, a foot deformity such as hammertoes, or uncontrolled Blood sugar, they may be prone to developing severe foot problems such as diabetic foot ulcers.
A diabetic foot ulcer is an open wound that mostly occurs on the bottom of the foot. This problem, if left untreated, can lead to Infection and other serious complications.
Ensure good foot hygiene for the elder. Check their feet regularly for any wounds. If you notice any sore area, show it to the elder's doctor immediately.
You can help the elder control and manage Diabetes by administering prescribed medications on time, monitoring their Blood sugar levels accurately, serving them a balanced diet, and encouraging them to exercise.