One in eight people living in Northeast Ohio has diabetes — and it can be a difficult disease to handle alone. If you are a caregiver of a loved one living with diabetes, you can have a significant impact on their well being. Diabetes is a disease involving a hormone called insulin and its regulation. In diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or does not respond to the insulin it makes in the usual way. As a result, you have high blood sugar levels.
Diabetes affects about one in five people age 65 and older. These adults can develop either type 1 (insulin-dependent) or type 2 diabetes. However, most elderly people with diabetes have type 2.
As a caregiver, you can help your loved one cope with their disease. Oftentimes your loved one won’t want to discuss their diabetes and the consequences of uncontrolled glucose levels, however it’s important to remain steadfast in your support and discuss these matters.
Diabetes can affect older adults in many different ways. If you notice changes in their behavior it’s important to contact their physician.
• They may be taking over-the-counter medications that don’t interact well with their diabetes medications.
• They may have a change in appetite.
• High glucose levels may result in conditions such as blurry vision, and mobility issues due to developing neuropathy.
• Uncontrolled glucose levels may also cause confusion and mask other medical issues such as dementia.
There is a lot to learn about living well with diabetes. As a caretaker it’s important to be knowledgeable about the complications of untreated diabetes. Complications may include blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease, infections, heart disease and strokes.
Below are some tips about how to communicate with your loved one about coping with diabetes. Ask yourself the following questions:
• What things are hard/easy for him or her to manage?
• How does he or she stay on track to reach these goals?
• How can you help with diabetes care tasks?
• Does your loved one feel down sometimes?
• What can you do to help him or her feel better?
• Does your loved one talk to his or her doctor or other health care team members about feeling down?
Find out what your loved one needs by asking these questions:
• What do I do that helps you with your diabetes?
• What do I do that makes it harder for you to manage your diabetes?
• What can I do to help you more than I do now?
Find ways to help. Nagging won’t help either of you. When you’ve found one way to help, add another way. When it fits his or her lifestyle, you could offer to:
• Keep track of health care visits.
• Make a list of questions for the health care team.
• Go along on a visit to the health care team.
• Find places to buy healthy, low-cost foods.
• Prepare tasty, healthy meals.
• Find a safe place to walk or to be more active.
For more information, contact the Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland at 216-591-0800.