November is Diabetes Awareness Month.
Did you know that diabetes disproportionately affects older adults? Approximately 25% of Americans over the age of 60 years have diabetes, and aging of the U.S. population is widely acknowledged as one of the drivers of the diabetes epidemic.
Although the burden of diabetes is often described in terms of its impact on working-aged adults, the disease also affects longevity, functional status, and risk of institutionalization for older patients.
High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, decreased mentation, symptoms and feelings of depression, and decline in ability to perform activities of daily living are all health factors that cause problems for the elderly with diabetes. In a study of older adults with diabetes, a full one-third of patients over age 70 showed signs of dementia that was correlated with high blood sugars.
It is shown that the elderly with diabetes die younger, and have more falls related to low blood sugars that cause a decrease in mobility and lead to a decline in the quality of life for this population. They are more likely to utilize assistive aids, such as canes, walkers, bedside commodes, and the like.
The elderly with diabetes are at an even greater risk of forgetting to eat regular meals and snacks, being unable to afford food that fits into their diabetes plan, or unable to cook their own meals at home. They are at greater risk of being unable to afford their medications.
Here are some recommendations for older adults with diabetes:
- Depression screening for older adults with diabetes is of great importance, as they may experience more isolation, less support and more feeling of hopelessness.
- Avoiding low blood sugar is of paramount importance, and A1C and blood sugar goals should be adjusted along with careful pharmaceutical management.
- Older adults with diabetes who are capable of handling their own activities of daily living without assistance, and who have no cognitive impairment should have A1C and blood sugar goals similar to that of a younger person.
- Treat cardiovascular factors, such as high blood pressure, increased lipids and cholesterol, and treat with aspirin if not contraindicated.
In early 2018, AAA4 will provide help to older adults with diabetes through DEEP (Diabetes Empowerment and Education Program). The program will be held in Sacramento. Classes will be posted on our website.