Could Your Aging Parent Have Diabetes?
According to the American Diabetes Association, almost 10 percent of people in the United States have diabetes. 12 million of those people are aged 65 or older. Though there are different kinds of diabetes, type 2 diabetes is the most common. Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans who have undiagnosed cases of diabetes. With the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in older adults, it’s important that family caregivers be knowledgeable about the condition and its symptoms.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult onset” or “non-insulin dependent” diabetes. It’s a condition that happens when the body either cannot use the insulin it makes or does not make enough insulin. As a result, the body isn’t able to metabolize sugar, which the body needs for energy. When the sugar, or glucose, isn’t used for fuel it builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugar.
Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas. When the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream, the hormone circulates through the body and allows sugar to get into cells where it can be used for energy. As the sugar enters cells, blood sugar levels decrease, so the pancreas slows down insulin production. This process doesn’t work correctly in people who have diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes has no cure and requires medical treatment. If it is not treated, it can lead to serious complications, such as:
Cardiovascular Disease: People with diabetes are at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, like high blood pressure, heart attack, coronary artery disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis.
Neuropathy: Neuropathy is damage to nerves. Typically, it begins with the fingers or toes tingling or feeling numb, then spreads to affect more of the limb. Eventually, the older adult can lose all feeling in the arm or leg.
Kidney Problems: Diabetes can lead to the small blood vessels in the kidneys that filter waste out of the body being damaged. Eventually, the damage can be bad enough to require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Foot Complications: Damage to nerves and blood vessels can lead to injuries and sores on the feet that don’t heal. Infections and damage can even lead to amputation.
Causes of Diabetes
No one knows exactly why the body stops making insulin or becomes unable to use it. However, doctors have identified certain things that can raise a person’s chance of developing diabetes. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors for diabetes are:
- Lack of Physical Activity: Being physically active helps the body to use up glucose and makes cells more receptive to insulin. In addition, exercise helps people to achieve and remain at a healthy weight.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese increases diabetes risk. Having excess fatty tissue makes cells more resistant to insulin. Where the body stores fat is also an issue. People who store fat around their abdomen rather than their hips and thighs are more likely to get diabetes.
- History: Those who have a family member, such as a parent or sibling, with diabetes are at greater risk.
- Age: Adults who are over the age of 45 may be more susceptible to diabetes because of exercising less, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain.
- Race: African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans are at higher risk for diabetes than people of other races.
It’s possible to have type 2 diabetes for a long time without even knowing it. At first, there may be no noticeable symptoms. But, over time you may notice some of these symptoms in your aging relative:
- Thirst and Urination: People with diabetes may be very thirst and urinate more often. This is because high blood sugar causes fluids to be pulled from tissues, making the older adult feel thirstier. And, because they are drinking more, they need to urinate more.
- Hunger: When sugar doesn’t enter the cells, the body doesn’t have enough energy. This can cause the person to feel like they need to eat more.
- Losing Weight: Because the body cannot use glucose for fuel, it turns to alternative energy sources like fat and muscle.
- Tiredness: The lack of energy can cause your aging relative to feel fatigued.
- Blurry Vision: High blood sugar can pull fluid from the lens of the eye, causing blurry vision.
- Sores That Don’t Heal: Sores that take a long time to heal and frequent infections are both signs of diabetes.
If your older family member is diagnosed with diabetes, having a senior care provider can help them to manage the condition. Senior care providers cannot administer medication, but they can remind the senior to check their blood sugar and take their medicine. A senior care provider can supervise the older adult to ensure they take the correct amount of medicine. Senior care providers can also cook healthy meals that follow the meal plan suggested by the doctor or dietician. Finally, a senior care provider can help your loved one to be more physically active, which can lead to weight loss and help control blood sugar levels.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Senior Care Services in Chandler AZ, please contact the caring staff at Devoted Guardians today.
Affordable In-Home Care in the Phoenix Metro Area. Call Today: (480) 999-3012.