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Caring for a Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetic Senior

March 26, 2021

Caring for a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic senior:

Many seniors who live at home and receive in-home care live with Type 2 Diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Type 2 Diabetes accounts for 90-95% of Diabetes cases in the US. That means in 2018 (the last year for which statistics were available), more than 10 million seniors were diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Having an at-home caregiver can be extremely valuable in helping seniors manage their disease.

Symptoms and Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes in Diabetic Seniors

Seniors who are overweight are typically considered to be at the greatest risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Family history can also play a role; and elderly women who suffered from Gestational Diabetes while pregnant; also seem to be at higher risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes risk also increases with age; as seniors are generally physically less active and the body naturally builds more resistance to insulin. Symptoms of the disease can be difficult to recognize, as many of them mimic the effects of aging. They include:

  • Increased hunger, thirst and urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Infections that are slow to heal

The Two Types of Diabetes in Seniors

You often hear about Type 2 Diabetes in Seniors, but rarely about Type 1 Diabetes. That’s because Type 1 Diabetes (formerly known as “Juvenile Diabetes”); and Type 2 Diabetes (formerly known as “Adult-Onset Diabetes”) are actually quite different diseases. In fact, many advocates have suggested changing the names of; Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes to reduce confusion between the diseases. Whereas Type 2 Diabetes is primarily about the body’s inability to process the insulin it produces; Type 1 Diabetes is more about the lack of insulin production. Whereas Type 2 Diabetes; can frequently be controlled with interventions such as weight reduction and diet. Type 1 Diabetes usually is treated with insulin, and cannot be managed with diet and exercise.

Caring for a Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetic Senior

After a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes; it’s important to come up with a care plan that the elderly person can follow. A medical professional may not immediately prescribe medications, preferring to take a nutritional and activity-based approach. A nutritionist may be consulted to help develop a healthy meal plan that can help lower blood glucose levels, and your doctor may recommend a program of exercise. A home care aide can be an essential part of the care plan, providing assistance with meal preparation and planning, medication reminders and management, as well as light housekeeping.

Housekeeping may not seem like a logical part of the care plan, but many seniors, especially those feeling the fatigue that can be common in Type 2 Diabetics, report that performing household chores leaves them with too little energy to get the recommended amount of exercise. Most experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate to strenuous activity per week (about 30 minutes 5 times per week). In addition, many medications that are prescribed for Type 2 Diabetics are time sensitive, in that they must be taken at certain times of day or a certain amount of time before or after meals. These schedules can become complicated, but they are important.

Meal Planning and Preparation for an Elderly Type 2 Diabetic

Seniors who receive at-home care services may have a difficult time adjusting to a new diet. They may be set in their ways or prefer foods that they are familiar with, meaning they can be locked into some bad habits. The important thing to remember is moderation. Adjusting the senior’s diet too quickly or severely may produce a backlash, leading back to unhealthy habits. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that those providing care to seniors provide tools for day-to-day planning rather than focusing on the reduction or elimination of specific foods. These tools may take the form of specific recipes, tips on healthier cooking, or guidelines as to what kinds of foods are generally better for managing blood glucose levels.

Additionally, it’s important not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. Even the ADA sets their targets for where a patient’s blood glucose should be based on other factors such as life expectancy, so some negotiation and compromise about  diet is fine, and actually may increase compliance. Seniors should discuss their target blood glucose levels with their medical professional, and the in-home caregiver can adjust to those expectations. When helping seniors adjust to a new way of thinking about their diet, it’s important not to think in absolutes, but rather try to minimize harm and maximize quality of life.

For example, Dave is an 84-year-old Type 2 Diabetic whose blood glucose is in reasonably good control. He also suffers from early stage Alzheimer’s disease. His caregiver expressed frustration that Dave refused to give up eating ice cream, his favorite dessert. Rather than cause more stress by escalating the conflict, Dave’s medical professional suggested that because of Dave’s other health challenges, it didn’t make sense to completely prohibit something he enjoyed. As a result, his caregiver enacted a harm-reduction strategy, buying reduced-sugar ice cream while focusing efforts in other areas to reduce overall sugar intake (in Dave’s case, increasing the amount of water he drank while reducing sugary drinks).

Home Care Aides Can Help Care for Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetics

A home care aide can work with the senior to comply with the constraints of their new diet while maintaining as much of what the senior likes as possible. A large part of the work that goes into meal planning and preparation can be done so that the senior doesn’t need to put too much thought or effort into what they should or shouldn’t eat. Plus, it can be confusing to know what kind of exercise a senior can or should do. Home care aides can provide motivation and encouragement to stay with an exercise routine. They can also make sure that tasks like laundry are completed so that the senior has the energy required to exercise. In addition, should a medical professional decide to prescribe medications that help with Type 2 Diabetes, the at-home caregiver can provide medication reminders and management that keep the senior on track.

Home Care Powered by AUAF Is Your Home Care Resource for Type 2 Diabetics

From medication reminders to laundry, meal planning and housekeeping. The dedicated professional caregivers at Home Care Powered by AUAF are here to help seniors with Type 2 Diabetes. Call us at or contact us to find out how to get started.

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