Diabetes is a chronic health condition, which can lead to a number of complications, including heart disease, nerve damage, and chronic kidney disease. Seniors who suffer from diabetes might present problems regarding their oral health, vision, and hearing. They might deal with obesity and limited mobility, requiring assistance with daily living activities. Diabetes can impair mental health, presenting an increased risk of anxiety. Family members are often the ones who look after their loved ones suffering from diabetes, acting as their caregivers.
In some cases seniors might reach a point where your help will not be enough. It will then be the time to consider other long-term care options, such as continuing care or assisted living.
Who is a caregiver?
Diabetes is a progressive condition, which influences the overall quality of life in a negative manner. It can be hard, if not impossible, to watch your loved ones dealing with its various symptoms. They might have to urinate frequently, feeling thirsty all the time, or present an increased appetite, wanting to eat all the time. Diabetes is associated with nerve damage, which might lead to tingling in the hands and feet. One might also present a permanent state of tiredness. It is possible for the vision to become blurry and the skin to suffer from extreme dryness. Wounds might heal slower, and the senior might need a longer time to recover from an infection.
Family members are usually the first ones to notice the changes in their loved ones. Unfortunately, diabetes can also limit their mobility, and even the cognitive capabilities, leaving one in need for assistance. Fearing for their safety and health in general, family members often turn into caregivers, doing their best to offer the necessary assistance. They rarely have the knowledge required, not being familiar with a condition such as diabetes. However, they realize that their help can make a genuine difference. In caring for a senior with a chronic condition, they might be exposed to stress and intense emotions.
As this condition cannot be cured but rather managed, it makes sense for the caregiver to offer his/her assistance to the best of his/her abilities. Seniors who benefit from caregiving report a higher quality of life. If you are having doubts about going down this road, maybe it will help you to look at the caregiving journey from this point of view. The support you offer can take different forms. For instance, you might monitor your loved one, to make sure he/she is safe and secure. It might be possible to adapt the home environment, in order to facilitate certain activities. You can help them keep track of their diet, handling the grocery shopping and meal planning.
Let's not forget that aside from the diabetes, seniors will deal with the normal aging process, which can lead to both memory loss and cognitive decline. It can be difficult for them to keep track of everything, so they might welcome the presence of a permanent caregiver. As diabetes often requires a strict medication plan, you can help your senior stay on top of his/her treatment. In this way, you will ensure that the medication is taken as instructed, which in turn will be beneficial for the general state of health. In addition, you might help your loved one go to the appointments, thus preventing further complications. Naturally, you can offer assistance with the activities of daily living, depending on how independent your loved one is. Should the condition progress to the point where severe complications occur, you might have to be prepared to offer your assistance 24/7.
Life with diabetes is complicated and there might be plenty of moments when one will feel disheartened, finding it impossible to go on. Caregivers can help them leave the bubble of negativity and focus on what truly matters, managing their condition. They offer support and kind words, not to mention reassurance that everything will work out. From a different perspective, caregivers can help seniors with diabetes maintain a satisfying daily routine. Depending on their abilities, they will be encouraged to complete certain tasks on their own. Various activities will be chosen to stimulate both their physical and mental health, many of which involve social interaction, so as the senior in question does not feel lonely or isolated.
Steps to take after the diabetes diagnosis
The diagnosis of diabetes can be hard to confront, especially since it forces one to make a lot of changes and it presents an increased risk of complications. As the caregiver, you might deal with a whirlwind of emotions yourself, feeling frustrated and angry. In those moments, you will want to take a deep breath and think about your loved one. Diabetes is a manageable condition, which can be kept in check. As a caregiver, you are taking the decision to look after someone you love, and there are plenty of rewards to consider. The diagnosis is only the first part in a long story, one which is defined by gratitude. Many caregivers end up learning important lessons themselves, rearranging their own lives as a result.
The best thing you can do is learn about diabetes and everything that it entails, as this will also allow you to care for your senior. At the same time, you have to remember that the caregiving journey can be overwhelming, so you need to look after yourself as well. It involves a certain closeness with your loved one, something might help you change your own perspective on living. Caregivers often report a sense of purpose, an accomplishment like no other, one which is based on the purest love. Without even realizing, they are becoming experts, understanding diabetes from all possible sides. Another advantage is that there are many support groups dedicated to caregivers, which are meant to help them process their own journey, but also to educate themselves on the topic of diabetes.
Not many people are aware of this for a fact, but the truth is that the caregiver might struggle just as much to accept the diagnosis of diabetes. After all, you are only human, and it can take a bit of time before acceptance occurs. To make everything easier, you will have to stay organized. It might help to create a journal, where you will jot down the most important aspects related to your caregiving journey. Together with your loved one, you can add essential information, including money-wise. For you, as the caregiver, it might be useful to include a list of resources, such as the contact details of doctors and other healthcare professionals. The senior should contribute, as you are in this journey together. Effective organization will help you manage the chaos of the most difficult moments, without feeling overwhelmed.
Both the online universe and the local community can offer valuable resources on how to look after a senior with diabetes. There are associations dedicated to people diagnosed with this condition, many of which offer additional support. Caregivers might benefit from specific trainings, learning how to handle specific situations and issues. You should also consider joining a local support group, as this might help you face the caregiving journey without the risk of burnout becoming apparent. You will have the opportunity to discover new information about diabetes and the symptoms one might experience. Thanks to all these resources and trainings, you will be best prepared to handle further challenges. In addition, you will be able to adjust your expectations accordingly, feeling less stressed as a result.
Equipment and other products diabetic's caregivers might consider
Upon being diagnosed with diabetes, seniors are taught that the need to maintain their blood sugar levels in check. This is the reason why they might require a blood glucose monitor, so as to measure their glycemia levels, at least twice per day. Caregivers might assume this responsibility, especially if the senior in question is prone to forgetfulness. Sometimes, it might be necessary to measure the glucose levels, before and after a meal. Depending on the type of diabetes one is suffering from, insulin shots might be administered. Once again, this is something that the caregiver can handle, but it might require a specific training beforehand. Insulin pens are easier to use than the shots, being often equipped with an insertable cartridge.
The physician might recommend other alternatives, such as the insulin pump, which is often a good option for those dealing with severe forms of diabetes. The insulin pump delivers rapid-acting insulin and patients are advised to keep monitoring their blood sugar levels. It might also be necessary to try several pumps, until one finds the one that delivers the best results (effective management of blood sugar levels). Blood sugar meters, which are also known as glucometers, can help one measure the blood sugar. These are easy to use, offering an indication of how effective the treatment plan actually is. As the caregiver, you might consider using this device if your loved one presents certain symptoms, such as confusion, nervousness, or lightheadedness.
Ketone test strips might be used to the same purpose, their presence signifying that the diabetes has progressed and the medication plan might need to be adjusted. In seniors with diabetes, it can often happen that the blood sugar levels crash, leading to potential complications, such as seizures. The doctor might recommend glucose tablets and glucagon for such situations. These are known as fast-acting sugar pills, which will raise your blood sugar levels back up. Glucagon is administered as a shot. Caregivers should always have these nearby, especially in the beginning of the treatment journey, when the senior is still learning how to manage his/her condition.
As the doctor might instruct the patient to have fast-acting sugar readily available, it will be your responsibility to ensure healthy snacks are within reaching distance. You might also consider glucose tablets, as these can help with sugar lows. Fruit juices can help as well. Even though chocolate might be perceived as a good idea, it is actually not recommended, as it takes time to be digested. Consider purchasing a diabetes medical alert bracelet, as this is highly useful in case of emergencies. The bracelet should also contain an emergency contact name and phone number. You might add any existent allergies, as this is another piece of vital information for emergencies.
Many diabetes seniors are dealing with skin issues, such as excess dryness and difficult wound healing. It is recommended to use mild soaps and shampoo, as well as a regular skin moisturizer. As cuts and other minor wounds take longer to heal, presenting an obvious risk for infection, you should consider an antibiotic cream and sterile bandages. Specific supplies for foot care should be purchased, including padded socks, as these might help improve functionality in seniors who have nerve damage. Diabetes is also associated with an increased risk of dental care issues, such as gum disease. Your senior might benefit from using a soft toothbrush, not to mention dental floss and antiseptic mouthwash. It is also recommended to have a box containing diabetes supplies, which should be used in case of emergencies, within the context of a natural disaster. You can keep track of everything using a diabetes management app on your smartphone.
Products for seniors with diabetes
Medical Alert Systems For Seniors
Stand Assist Devices
Toilet Safety Rails
Post Surgery Pillows
Indoor Exercise Bikes
Lightweight Transport Wheelchairs
Cell Phones For The Elderly
Self-care for diabetes caregivers
It can be difficult to care for a senior who suffers from a chronic condition such as diabetes. Unfortunately, you might end up dealing with chronic stress yourself, with a high risk of burnout. Upon seeing your loved one experience a number of physical and mental changes, which are guaranteed to impact everyday living, you might feel frustrated. Feelings of anger and anxiety can break through the surface, with your own health suffering in the process. The burden of caregiving is definitely felt, many caregivers reporting both anxiety and depression. You might also feel exhausted, forgetting to take the much-needed breaks. One of the best ways to avoid such problems involves the regular practice of self-care.
Diabetes is tough to manage, and it can force your loved one to change, especially whereas the daily diet is concerned. Caregivers often do their best to make life easier for their seniors, but they might pick up the emotional distress, feeling frustrated in the process. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that caregiving is often isolating, with caregivers finding themselves in need of support. The progress of diabetes might complicate matters, both in terms of health and daily living. Keep in mind that caregiver fatigue is a real thing, and you need to look after yourself, especially if you want to avoid dealing with health issues yourself.
You can also help yourself by looking at caregiving as the gift that it truly is. You have taken the decision to look after your loved one, offering unconditional support and love. During the most difficult moments, you know that you are the person they rely on, so you might use these spots of intimacy to become closer and gather beautiful memories to cherish for many years to come. Perhaps one of the most important lessons to be learned is that life can change in just one moment, so you should never take anyone or anything for granted. As a caregiver, you might learn to re-arrange your priorities, focusing on aspects of life that bring real meaning.
The selfless act of caregiving can offer a healthy perspective on life, teaching you to be grateful for being alive and thriving. It will help you find purpose, this sense of accomplishment being based on the love you share. Perhaps you will also learn coping techniques, becoming more resilient against chronic stress. Together with your loved one, you will learn to navigate difficult moments, finding inner peace and compassion. You might notice that other family members or friends have become motivated by your own caregiving journey.
You should never look at the self-care practice as something superfluous, particularly since your daily work as a caregiver can take a toll on you. Caregivers are advised to seek out the necessary support, so as to avoid feeling overwhelmed themselves. This is one of the reasons why respite care was invented. There are also simple things you can do to support your physical, mental, and emotional health. For example, you should always find time to go outside and enjoy the fresh air, not to mention how important it can be to follow a healthy diet and sleep for at least 7-8 hours per night. Do not repress your emotions, but rather find someone to talk to. It can be another family member, a friend, or a therapist. What matters is that you get it all out, so that you can feel cleansed.
Even though you might think that asking for help is weak, in truth, this is the bravest thing you can do. You should never be alone in your caregiving journey and the good news is that there are plenty of support resources available. Caregivers can rely on family members and friends, not to mention other options, such as respite care, in-home help, and adult day care. You might also consider finding NGOs that offer care and other services to seniors diagnosed with diabetes. They can relieve the caregiving burden, at least temporarily, allowing you to breathe and gather fresh forces for the future. These breaks are necessary, as they will give you the opportunity to rest, but also to pursue your own interests. In this way, you will have the energy to deal with various challenges.
There are support groups dedicated to caregivers looking after seniors with diabetes, and their value is undeniable. Always remember that you are human and thus prone to exhaustion, both physical and mental. Sharing your caregiving journey with others will help you feel lighter. You will connect with people who are going through similar experiences, these meetings reducing the feelings of isolation and anxiety. They might teach you how to approach specific issues, not to mention they might highlight the value of self-care. At the same time, you will be reminded that you need to stay realistic, as diabetes is a condition that is difficult to manage. What matters is that you are taking things step by step, being grateful for the little things, and never losing yourself in the caregiving process.
These are some of the self-care recommendations you should consider:
- Seek out professional support – in-home help, adult day care, respite care; consider NGOs and support groups
- Help your loved one stay as independent as possible, so that he/she can enjoy the daily routine to the fullest
- Adjust your expectations accordingly, so that you can continue your caregiving journey, without giving into frustration or anger
- Educate yourself on the subject of diabetes, this will help you stay ahead of any challenge that might arise
- Accept the difficult emotions you are dealing with and find the best way to process them
- Ask other family members to contribute to the caregiving journey
- Think about the future, making plans for treatment and adaptations
- Find your sense of purpose in the act of caregiving
- Take breaks from caregiving, so that you can unwind and pursue your own interests
Long-term care options for elderly with diabetes
Diabetes can progress up to the point when it becomes unmanageable. Severe complications can arise, including limb amputation, nerve damage, and constant insulin spikes. In such situations, you might find it difficult, if not impossible, to look after your loved one. When the quality of care begins to suffer, you should consider other long-term care options. Even though this is not a simple decision to take, you have to think of your senior and the benefits to be derived. Seniors with diabetes can thrive in communities designed to meet their needs, benefiting from assistance with daily living activities, healthcare, and healthy meal plans. The best options including continuing care and assisted living, as well as skilled nursing care for more complicated cases.
Caring for a senior who suffers from diabetes can challenge you, in more than one way. It is recommended to strive for a balance between caregiving and looking after yourself, especially if you want to avoid the negative consequences of burnout. Remember to practice self-care and educate yourself on the topic of diabetes, as this will help you stay on top of future challenges.
Assisted living for seniors with diabetes
Which services does assisted living provide?
Short-term assisted living
Paying for assisted living
What to look for in luxury assisted living?
Incontinence care in assisted living
What is the difference between assisted living and nursing home
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
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Heart disease caregiving
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Parkinson's disease caregiving
Caring for seniors with limited mobility
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