According to the ADA, one in four Americans aged 65 and older are diabetic. While type 2 diabetes can be managed through medications and lifestyle changes, it is a serious illness that can be deadly if untreated.
Diabetes is one of the most salient threats to seniors’ independence as they age. If left unchecked, this disease can cause damage to virtually all of the body’s organ systems, increasing risks of:
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
- Eye disease
- Nerve damage
- Bone fractures
- Poor healing
Fortunately, there are steps that seniors who are living with diabetes can take to minimize potential complications. Here are our best tips for living a full, healthy life while managing type 2 diabetes.
1. Encourage seniors to monitor their blood sugar regularly.
A critical part of living healthfully with diabetes is staying aware of your numbers. Seniors who are on insulin or other diabetes medications should follow their healthcare provider’s instructions for monitoring their blood glucose, even when they feel fine.
Excessively high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, can cause blurred vision, dry mouth, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat. Even more dangerous is low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which can lead to sweating, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty with communication. People who become hypoglycemic too often over a period of time may stop experiencing the warning signs, putting them at an increased risk for a diabetic coma.
By routinely monitoring their blood glucose according to their physicians’ orders, seniors can adjust meals and medications to prevent these conditions before they start.
2. Help seniors prioritize exercise.
Exercise does more than keep seniors fit – it’s an important part of diabetes management.
Consistent exercise increases insulin sensitivity, helping muscles use available insulin more efficiently. Best of all, the effects don’t end when the exercise ends — physical activity can help keep blood glucose low for up to 24 hours after exercising.
Fortunately, exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous to be beneficial. Even gentle movement is a powerful tool for seniors who want to manage their type 2 diabetes. Choosing exercises that are enjoyable is the key to building a healthy new habit.
3. Eat smart with meal prep.
A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes requires lifestyle changes – especially when it comes to diet. Adapting to a new way of eating can be overwhelming, but seniors can greatly increase their odds of success by planning their meals ahead of time.
Meal prep has many benefits for older adults, but they ring especially true for seniors managing diabetes. Having nutritious, balanced meals and snacks on hand makes it much easier to make consistently healthy choices. It also ensures that seniors have ready access to the foods they may need to regulate their blood sugar in an emergency.
Older adults who need a helping hand in the kitchen may benefit from in-home nutrition services. Professional caregivers can assist seniors with meal planning, cooking, and shopping. They are also a friendly face that helps ensure that planned menus align with your physician’s dietary recommendations.
4. Establish a daily routine.
The cornerstone of diabetes management is a healthy routine. Seniors who consistently monitor their blood glucose, seek out exercise, and make nutritious food choices see the best outcomes.
For seniors who need assistance with their daily activities, in-home personal care can be a valuable tool for keeping diabetes in check. Empathetic care professionals not only facilitate seniors’ routines, they are also there to act as a sounding board and encourage healthy choices.
With the proper care and support, seniors can minimize the effects of type 2 diabetes and maintain their independence as they age.