Elderly Parents at Risk

Diabetes is an insidious disease that preys on older people, including our elderly parents. Type 2 diabetes, once known as “adult onset diabetes,” affects 90 – 95 percent of the more than 20 million Americans affected with diabetes. My father at age 78, for example, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million Americans have been diagnosed with Type 2, 6.2 million remain unaware they have the disease – while another 40 million have pre-diabetes (which can become diabetes). It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

Observe and learn about yourself and your body. Seniors with symptoms of excessive thirst, and frequent urinations, are showcasing signs of diabetes. Learn all you can about the disease so that you can recognize warning signs that your blood sugar levels are out of balance. Diet and exercise are extremely important in maintaining the body’s metabolism. With Type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce the needed amounts of insulin, or what has been produced is not being processed properly.

Signs of high blood sugar may be also characterized by tingling sensation in hands and feet, a frequent need to urinate, nausea, extreme thirst or hunger, and blurred vision. This may be caused by overeating, being under stress, or having too little insulin in the body. Signs of low-blood sugar can include shaking, sweating, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, dizziness, hunger, weakness, irritability, and fatigue. The body is in a weakened state. Causes are usually due to lack of food intake, or excessive exercise which has stretched the body’s reserves.

The nutritional goal for diabetics is to attain the “ABC’s” of diabetes. The “A” stands for the hemoglobin A1c test, which is a measure of your average blood sugar over the previous three months; “B” is for your blood pressure, and “C” is for cholesterol. People with diabetes should attain as near as normal blood sugar control, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

But many times dealing with aging parents and their food intake can be very inconsistent.  Agencies providing home health care, and attentive care staff, can manage and monitor mealtime with elderly parents.  Partly to simply provide some assistance in preparation of a nutritious meal.  But also to remind, and cajole, the senior who does not finish his/her meals.  

Meanwhile, exercise can help by improving glucose tolerance – meaning that blood sugars are controlled with less medication, lowering the chance of developing serious complications from diabetes, helping the body manage stress, aiding in weight control, and decreasing one’s risk of getting diabetes in the first place. Do your parents have a companion for a daily walk?

Changing one’s lifestyle choices is also critical. Smoking, for example, increases the risk of developing diabetes.