Caring for your parents as they age can be a difficult responsibility to take on. If your parent is a person with diabetes, there are special considerations to be taken into account. Whether your elderly parent is someone who has been living with diabetes for decades or is newly diagnosed, be sure to keep an open dialogue about their diabetes management and other health issues. To keep on point with your parents’ healthcare, consider these caregiving tips for senior parents with diabetes.
Know your Parent’s Diabetes Regimen and Treatment Goals. Do you know how often your parent with diabetes is testing their blood sugar? How many times did they administer a dose of insulin? If your parent is using the Dario Smart Diabetes Management System, then you can simply log-in and check. But it is also important to have a discussion with your parent, and ideally their doctor, about their diabetes treatment plan. The treatment goals for seniors with diabetes can change and are often focused on more short term goals, like keeping the number of hypoglycemic events down.
A1C targets may also vary and should be based on the overall health of the individual, not on age alone. While the Mayo Clinic recommends an A1C level treatment goal of 7% or less for people with diabetes, a goal of 8% may be more attainable and acceptable in older adults. Depending on their physical condition, seniors may not benefit as much from having tighter control of their blood glucose levels and may also have other health issues to contend with, like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
If your parent is taking medications for anything other than diabetes, make sure you know what other prescriptions and supplements they are taking. Certain drugs can have interactions with other diabetes medications and can have side effects such as lowered blood glucose levels or affect kidney function.
Foot Care. People with diabetes of all ages must take care to keep their tootsies in good shape, but foot care is critical in seniors with diabetes. Vision and mobility issues can make it difficult for older people to tend to their toenails and to conduct self-inspections of their feet. Caregivers should regularly inspect feet for fungus, sores, or any other injuries to the feet. If your parent does present with any foot problems, it’s best to take them to their podiatrist or doctor. Don’t care for any wounds or ingrown toenails yourself.
Mental Health and Cognitive Functioning. Seniors with diabetes have a higher probability to experience depression and should be screened for depression by their physician. If you notice any changes in your mom or dad’s behavior, like moodiness, irritability, loss of energy or interest, or any differences in their eating and sleeping patterns, talk to their doctor. Older adults with diabetes can also experience diabetes burnout, which is basically just getting fed up of having to deal with diabetes daily and ignoring blood sugar monitoring and necessary treatments. Seniors with diabetes also have an increased risk of more rapid cognitive decline associated with aging. This can lead to deficits in the ability to provide self-care for diabetes management.
While it can feel overwhelming, remember you don’t have to help your parent’s manage their diabetes alone. Enlist the support of your siblings, your parent’s medical team, and social media support groups to get added help. It may seem like a daunting task, but having the Dario Diabetes Management Solution in your tool kit can help give you added piece of mind. With features such as sharing blood glucose measurements, statistics reports, and text message alerts for hypo and hyper events, Dario can help you feel more at ease for caring for your senior parents.
 American Geriatrics Society Expert Panel on the Care of Older Adults with Diabetes Mellitus. (2013). Guidelines Abstracted from the American Geriatrics Society Guidelines for Improving the Care of Older Adults with Diabetes Mellitus: 2013 Update. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 61:2020-2026.