Lifestyle Changes for Seniors with Diabetes

Jun 9, 2016

Lifestyle Changes for Seniors with Diabetes

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Seniors are faced with a lot of life changes. Leaving behind a beloved career, welcoming grandchildren into the world, leaving a home they might have lived in forever for a retirement home are just a few of the changes that seniors are faced with as they age. While many of these changes can be exciting, seniors typically do not look forward to the physical changes that may await them.

Managing Diabetes As You Age

While many seniors live well into their 90’s and beyond in perfect health, others are faced with age-related diseases and disabilities that are seemingly inevitable. One of the most common diseases a senior is likely to acquire is diabetes. Fortunately, diabetes is completely manageable, but it’s impossible to manage the disease without making some major lifestyle changes.

Physical Changes

Seniors that have only recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can expect a lot of physical changes. Some of the physical symptoms of the disease include feeling thirsty all the time, increased trips to the bathroom, feeling fatigued or generally tired, constant hunger, tingling feelings in arms and legs, as well as blurred vision and more.

Coinciding with the physical symptoms, there are new tasks that seniors with diabetes will have to work into their schedules. These tasks include:

  • Checking Blood Sugar Levels – A physician will make recommendations on how frequently an individual with type 2 diabetes should be checking his or her blood sugar levels. The typical recommendation ranges from a few times a day to a few times a week.
  • Insulin Injections or Other Medication – Individuals with type 2 diabetes typically need one to two insulin injections per day, with the help of other diabetes medication.

The physical changes that come along with type 2 diabetes may be the most noteworthy lifestyle change, but it’s certainly not the only one.

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

Many people manage their type 2 diabetes solely by keeping to a strict diet and exercise plan, but for older individuals, a simple change in diet typically isn’t enough. Nevertheless, the foods a senior eats affects his or her blood sugar level, therefore a balanced diet can help keep the symptoms of diabetes at bay.

These changes may be difficult for a senior to become accustomed to after many years of eating the way they’d like. Start with leaving out fried and fatty foods, as well as eating smaller meals multiple times a day, rather than three big meals per day. Seniors should be on the look out for foods that seem healthy but may be hiding a tremendous amount of sugar or carbs, like fruit juices, coffee drinks, processed lunch meat and frozen meals.

The Importance of Physical Activity

Physical activity isn’t typically a top priority for seniors, but in seniors with diabetes, it needs to be. Despite the fact that moderate exercise is just plain healthy, physical activity helps use up the excess glucose in the senior’s body. Weight gain or obesity may even be one of the reasons the individual developed type 2 diabetes in the first place.

It’s important for seniors to understand that it’s not necessary for them to go out and run a marathon just to be healthy. Exercising of any sort, even if it is simply taking a stroll outside for 15 minutes a day, will help seniors experience fewer symptoms of their diabetes, are well as helping to keep their blood sugar levels low.

Complications of Diabetes

One of the more unfortunate issues of type 2 diabetes is that it often leads to other complications, especially in older adults. Here are some of the most common complications seniors with type 2 diabetes should be on the lookout for:

  • Hypoglycemia – This is a disorder caused by extremely low blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia is especially dangerous in elderly individuals because it’s typically caused by the medication they are taking. It can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.
  • Loss of Vision – People with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma, and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts. Vision issues within individuals with diabetes can range in severity.
  • Neuropathy – Neuropathy is the nerve damage that often causes the tingling feeling in the extremities of individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes.
  • Kidney Disease – The kidneys are essentially a filtering system for the human body, and diabetes puts more glucose in the body than the kidneys can filter through, causing serious issues.
  • Skin Complications – A side effect of diabetes is having severely itchy and dry skin, but this can often lead to more serious skin infections. The infections are typically fungal or bacteria and are easily treated with medication.

A senior’s life may change pretty drastically upon the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, but it’s important for the individual to remember that this disease is rather manageable, especially with the help of a trusted physician. Seniors or loved ones of seniors should speak to a physician if they see signs of diabetes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a way to receive financial assistance for diabetes patients?

Yes, there is! Medicare can help those with diabetes pay for certain supplies and services through the Medicare Part B plan. Although a doctor’s prescription is needed, assistance can come through: 

  • Blood Glucose monitors and supplies
  • A1C tests
  • Eye examinations to check for related eye diseases
  • Flu shots
  • Diabetes management training
  • Nutrition services

 

See All Answers »

How does diabetes affect teeth and gums?

Untreated, diabetes can affect teeth and gum health poorly. With higher blood glucose levels, your saliva is much more prone to hosting harmful bacteria that can cause plaque, leading to tooth decay or cavities if left unchecked. Learning all you can about diabetes treatment options can go a long way!

See All Answers »

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