Treatment of diabetes in the elderly can be different than treatment for a younger person. There are different considerations for an elderly person with diabetes. It is important to be familiar with how the body changes as it ages. The aged body of a diabetic person processes insulin and glucose differently than the body of a young person with diabetes.
An elderly person may not understand how their body has changed, or why their treatment for diabetes has changed. When providing care for an elderly person with diabetes, clear communication about diabetes treatment is essential. If the elderly person is unable to manage their treatment on his or her own, placement in a facility could be necessary.
Why is Diabetes Different in the Elderly?
Many symptoms of diabetes can also be normal signs of aging, making diagnosis and treatment of diabetes in the elderly difficult. Likewise, symptoms of hyperglycemia can be hidden in older adults. For example, as one ages, thirst decreases. Polydipsia, or increased thirst, is often seen in people with diabetes. But, in the elderly, it is not. This makes it more difficult to recognize illness. Signs of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can be disguised as well. An example of this would be confusion. Many people become confused as they age. Confusion can be a symptom of hypoglycemia, making it difficult to diagnose in an elderly person.
Drug metabolism is also a concern in an elderly person. If medications are needed to treat hyperglycemia, a larger dosage may be necessary to achieve a normal blood glucose level due to decreased absorption in the stomach and intestines. This can change how the body responds to glucose and insulin, a hormone made by the body that is used to lower blood glucose.
How to Treat Diabetes in the Elderly?
Goals for treating diabetes in the elderly include more than simply controlling blood sugars. Many people within this age group have cognitive impairments, decreased quality of life, depression, and other illnesses. Decreased cognitive function is linked with uncontrolled blood sugars. Therefore, it is important to treat the person as a whole.
It can be difficult to control blood sugars in the elderly. Regardless, an A1C, or average measurement of blood sugars, should maintain a level less than 7%. This can be achieved through diet and exercise, and also through medications. This is a concern when an elderly person is immobile. Special considerations should be made when making an exercise plan for a person with decreased mobility.
Caring for your Elderly Loved One:
It is challenging to care for an elderly loved one with diabetes. You may be faced with the decision of placing your family member in a nursing home or long term care facility. This may cause a problem if your loved one wishes to remain at home. It can also place a strain on you, the caregiver. If caring for your elderly loved one with diabetes at home is an option you wish to examine, you should educate yourself on the different resources that are available.