Exploring The Toll Diabetes Can Take On The Elderly Includes Accounting For The Effects Of Comorbidities On Complications Of The Disease
Pegasus experienced in-home caregivers in Granada Hills and elsewhere are knowledgeable about a variety of medical conditions. Many of their senior clientele require assistance due to chronic disease. Our career home health care nurses are aware of the toll that diabetes can take on the elderly.
Glucose is a simple carbohydrate with one sugar molecule. The food an individual consumes is the primary source of glucose. Their body produces the enzymes and hormones needed to extract it during the digestive process.
An Insulin Deficiency Or Insulin Resistance Can Cause High Levels Of Blood Sugar
The bloodstream then carries glucose to cells, where it’s an essential source of energy. The glucose in the blood is commonly called blood sugar. Insulin, a hormone, controls the amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream.
The pancreas produces the insulin that cells require to absorb glucose. Diabetes mellitus is the medical term for too much sugar in the blood due to the lack of insulin. Diabetes is categorized as follows:
- Gestational – occurs during pregnancy but usually goes away after the baby is born.
- Prediabetes – blood sugar levels are high, but the condition is potentially reversible.
- Type 1 – also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It’s usually due to an immune system malfunction that stops the pancreas from producing insulin. Individuals are most often young when it begins, but it can occur in adulthood. Type 1 is not yet curable, and individuals must take insulin lifelong.
- Type 2 – formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, although it can occur in young individuals. It’s a metabolic disorder in which the pancreas produces reduced amounts of insulin. The cells may not be able to absorb what insulin is available.
Glucose malabsorption is a condition known as insulin resistance, which can progress to prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
Currently, Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. Good lifestyle choices can help prevent the other types of diabetes. That includes eating well, exercising, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Diabetes Causes And Symptoms May Overlap
Diabetes has potentially serious health consequences for individuals of all ages. However, it can be particularly devastating for seniors. As individuals age, their bodies not only produce less insulin, they experience greater rates of insulin resistance.
Geriatric syndrome describes compromised health due to factors that include age, cognitive and functional impairments, and loss of mobility. The syndrome includes:
- Chronic infections
- Hearing and vision losses
- Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass)
- Vascular conditions
These are also symptoms of diabetes. Existing conditions can be worsened by diabetes itself. Diabetes may also mask symptoms of other diseases.
Individuals with Type 1 must add insulin either by injection or by using an insulin pump. The healthy lifestyle practices that help prevent the other types are also the initial treatment for the condition. Those individuals may additionally need medications or insulin as time passes.
Seniors Are At High Risk For Complications From Diabetes
Keeping blood sugar levels controlled is essential for everyone with diabetes. Not doing so can lead to complications that significantly affect their quality of life and potentially become life-threatening. Older adults are at higher risk of complications for a variety of reasons.
As noted above, the elderly often have age-related comorbidities that impair good diabetes management. Mobility issues may keep them from exercising adequately. Some have long-standing lifestyle habits that hamper their ability to achieve control of their blood sugar.
Factors such as hypertension or high cholesterol leave them vulnerable to complications. Depression is another condition that keeps individuals from good management of their diabetes.
Poor management results in complications that include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment
- Debilitating falls
- Kidney disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Peripheral vascular disease
Complications make keeping blood sugar levels low difficult. As well, complications also are the result of high blood sugar levels. For some elderly individuals, a downward spiral is created that can lead to premature death.
Home Health Care Improves Diabetes Management
Consuming healthy foods is one of the mainstays of diabetes management. Sometimes seniors forget to eat regular meals. Others lose their sense of taste.
As a Pegasus home health nurse, your team includes a dietitian. They can devise menus featuring appealing meals. Other members of your team can assist with food shopping and meal preparation.
Vision loss may impair some of your patient’s ability to take correct amounts of medications. Others aren’t able to correctly inject insulin. Your care will include monitoring the medications and injections.
Insufficient insulin or poor dietary choices result in hyperglycemia. Individuals can become dehydrated. If not corrected, they can lapse into a coma.
Too much insulin or not eating can cause hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemic individuals become confused, dizzy, weak, and may fall.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our home health caregivers in Granada Hills and our other locations provide customized services to all our clients. Our career home health care nurses are dedicated to reducing the toll that diabetes takes on elderly individuals’ health.