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Diabetes Management Tips for Seniors

As the caregiver for a senior loved one, you may find yourself helping them manage more than just the daily activities of living, such as bathing, clothing or eating. You may also find yourself helping them manage their overall health, especially if they are impacted by diabetes, a disease characterized by a difficulty processing sugars found in food. Wondering how to help your elderly loved one manage their diabetes? You’re not alone. According to the CDC, approximately 25% of individuals aged 65+ have diabetes – that’s 25 million seniors! In this blog, we’ll answer the following questions to help you in this caregiving journey: How can I help the elderly with diabetes? What do I need to know in terms of how to prevent diabetes in my senior loved one? And what is the best diabetic diet to help them manage their blood sugar levels? Read on to learn more.

Diabetes: Elderly Complications

Managing diabetes as a younger adult is not without its difficulties, but for seniors with diabetes, the complications can be even more serious. Seniors who suffer from diabetes are not only at an increased risk for macrovascular complications (coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and peripheral vascular disease), but also for microvascular complications such as retinopathy, nephropathy (kidney disease) and neuropathy. Seniors are also at an increased risk for geriatric syndromes, including falls, vision loss, hearing loss, urinary incontinence, cognitive impairment and dementia, depression and frailty.

How do you help your senior loved one avoid these complications? It starts with monitoring their blood sugar and attempting to prevent diabetes before it starts. If they’ve already been diagnosed, following proper health and exercise guidelines can be very effective for helping manage the symptoms and complications associated with diabetes.

What is Normal Blood Sugar for Seniors?

It’s incredibly important to monitor your senior loved one’s blood sugar level if they are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Normal blood sugar levels for seniors don’t differ much from those of adults 20+. Levels should be in the following ranges throughout the day:

  • In a fasting state, blood sugar should be less than 100 mg/dL.
  • Before a meal, resting blood sugar levels should be between 70-130 mg/dL.
  • The American Diabetes Association recommends that 1-2 hours after eating, senior blood sugar levels should be less than 180 mg/dL.
  • Finally, at bedtime, blood sugar levels should fall between 100-140 mg/dL.

Managing Diabetes in the Elderly

One of the first things to know about diabetes is that there is no cure; however, by losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight, you can help manage symptoms of the disease and learn how to control diabetes type 2, which is the most common – and most easily preventable – form of the disease.

The first step to losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight involves exercise. It’s recommended that you be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For your senior loved one, that might mean taking a 30-minute walk in the afternoon, or a few shorter walks throughout the day.

Exercise alone won’t be enough to prevent symptoms or complications of diabetes, though. A healthy diet should also be followed to ensure blood sugar doesn’t become elevated.

What should elderly diabetics eat?

The best food for diabetes control includes foods that are high in fiber, protein or healthy fats. These nutrients help slow the digestive process, limiting the number of carbohydrates that make their way into the blood stream and stabilizing your loved one’s blood sugar levels.

So what is a good daily menu for a diabetic? A great rule of thumb is to include the following in your loved one’s diet:

  • Healthy carbohydrates, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lentils, legumes and low-fat dairy products.
  • High-fiber foods, like whole wheat, beans, slow-cooked oats (not instant!), quinoa and fruits like apples or prunes.
  • Fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Lean proteins – try boneless, skinless chicken breast!
  • Healthy fats, such as those you can find in nuts, olives or avocados.

It’s also recommended that individuals with diabetes drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks – sodas, juice, popular sports or energy drinks – as well as excess levels of salt and alcohol, as these items can all have negative impacts on blood sugar levels.

The Hillsboro Difference

Do you still have questions about your senior loved one’s care? Not sure how to manage their diabetes in addition to helping them with the activities of daily living? Hillsboro Rehabilitation and Health Care Center can help. Our expert skilled nursing staff is here to answer your questions, and we stand ready to give your senior loved one the care they deserve. Reach out today to receive a personalized care consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!