Managing diabetes is important at any age. However, it can get trickier as we get older. This is because our bodies change as we age so can react differently to medication and blood sugar levels. On top of this, we often develop other health issues. So how do you help your ageing parent with managing diabetes?
1. Encourage regular diabetes health checks
Diabetes is a condition that should be managed daily. Left unchecked, diabetes can cause serious health issues of its own.. In addition to regular blood glucose level checks (dependant on which type of diabetes your parent has), it’s important to regularly monitor:
- blood glucose levels (dependant on which type of diabetes your parent has, this might have to be done daily, at several points throughout the day, or at less regular intervals. Check with your parent’s doctor).
- blood pressure
- teeth and gums (dental care)
The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) recommends the following cycle of care to help in managing diabetes:
|How often||Checks to carry out|
|Daily self-checks||Foot check—look for signs of infection, swelling, redness or skin breaks|
|3–6 months||Foot assessment (high-risk feet)—with podiatrist, doctor or diabetes educator|
|6–12 months||Blood pressure—with doctor or practice nurse
|12 months||Foot assessment (low-risk feet)—with podiatrist, doctor or diabetes educator
Kidney health—with doctor or endocrinologist
Blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides)—with doctor
Medication review—with doctor
Dental check—with dentist
|2 years||Eye examination—with doctor, optometrist or ophthalmologist|
|When indicated||Driver’s licence assessment—with doctor|
2. Seek advice for any new symptoms
Diabetes can be complex, and it would be easy to presume any new symptoms such as reduced eyesight, are a sign of ageing. However, it could be due to diabetes developing further. That’s why it’s important to seek medical advice for any changes in your parent’s wellbeing. Your parent’s health care team should be your first port of call, while the NDSS provides education and support programs to help people understand and manage diabetes. It would be worthwhile registering with the NDSS for access to the programs and potentially discounted products to help in managing diabetes.
The NDSS has also produced a booklet to help you work with your parent and their health care team.
3. Ask for support in managing diabetes
As we grow older, we might have reduced mobility, or our eyesight can be reduced. This can make it more difficult to carry out some checks such as a daily foot check. This might mean some early problem signs are missed.
If your parent is just getting older, perhaps this is something you help with.
If your parent receives care in the home, it might be worth adding a daily or regular foot check to their care plan. You might need a new Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment if the level of package needs to change (see our article on ACAT assessments).
If your parent is in care, then this should be raised with the care team and added to their care plan.
The NDSS has a wide range of support programs tailored to the type of diabetes your parent has. One program is the KeepSight program which helps Australians living with diabetes receive Medicare-funded diabetes eye tests.
4. Promote active ageing
Keeping active as we age has numerous benefits. Physically it can help maintain mobility and balance, strengthen muscles, reduce falls, and improve insulin sensitivity in people living with diabetes. Exercise can also help improve mental well-being, thanks to the endorphins it produces. Our article on staying active at home has some great tips as well as a sample home exercise program for ageing parents.
5. Encourage healthy eating
Older people living with diabetes generally have the same dietary needs as other older people. According to the NDSS, “they should be encouraged to follow a healthy eating plan which suits their individual needs, tastes and cultural preference. There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic’ diet.” The NDSS has produced a booklet on Healthy eating: a guide for older people living with diabetes that might be useful. There’s also our article on Cooking for One – healthy recipes for older people.
Some useful links:
The National Diabetes Support Scheme (NDSS), run by Diabetes Australia, is a great resource for people with diabetes and their care teams (including you).
– Register with the NDSS – https://www.ndss.com.au/about-the-ndss/registration/
– Support programs – https://www.ndss.com.au/services/support-programs/
– Information about older people and diabetes – https://www.ndss.com.au/living-with-diabetes/about-you/older-people/
– Guide on managing diabetes as you age – https://www.ndss.com.au/wp-content/uploads/resources/booklet-managing-diabetes-as-you-age-guide-for-people-over-65.pdf
– NDSS annual cycle of care checklist – https://www.ndss.com.au/about-diabetes/resources/find-a-resource/your-diabetes-annual-cycle-of-care-fact-sheet/
– NDSS booklet on working with your health care team – https://www.ndss.com.au/wp-content/uploads/resources/booklet-your-health-care-team-guide-for-people-over-65.pdf
– NDSS booklet on Healthy eating: a guide for older people living with diabetes – https://www.ndss.com.au/wp-content/uploads/resources/booklet-healthy-eating-guide-for-people-over-65.pdf
Carer’s Circle article – Your parent’s doctor – your partner in caring – https://carerscircle.com.au/2020/03/08/your-parents-doctor-your-partner-in-caring/
Carer’s Circle article – For older people and those with chronic health conditions, staying active at home is extra important – here’s how – https://carerscircle.com.au/2020/04/07/for-older-people-and-those-with-chronic-health-conditions-staying-active-at-home-is-extra-important-heres-how/
Photo credit: Blood-Glucose by diabetes.co