Diabetes is a significant health problem for people over the age of 60. According to the Diabetes Association, more than 23 percent of Americans in that age bracket suffer from diabetes. If you’re a caregiver to an elderly parent who has been diagnosed with this disease, there are good reasons to pay attention to how your loved one is handling it. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U. S. Its complications include high blood pressure, blindness, heart attack, kidney disease and stroke.
What’s that you say? Your patient isn’t following the doctor’s orders? I imagine this is the source of considerable tension as you struggle to get your patient to do the right things. Here are some ideas to help your mom or dad, your spouse or child, stay focused on healthy behaviors:
- Study up on diabetes. There’s information at your library or through the Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org. One medical study cited in the June, 2007 issue of AARP Magazine found that diabetics over the age of 65 show improved glucose control once their caregivers understood more about their disease.
- Keep a positive attitude and avoid nagging (hard to do, I know) over missed tests, meds, dietary restrictions or exercise routines. Nagging (you call it reminding, but it’s really nagging) builds stress and that has the potential to raise blood sugar levels. It will also dim any enthusiasm the patient may have been feeling about their glucose control regimen.
- Know what foods are banned from your loved one’s diet and then ban them from the house. Don’t sit down to a big slab of chocolate cake and expect your parent to be happy while watching you eat it. There are plenty of cookbooks available that focus on healthy meal plans for diabetics.
- Find a way to make exercise fun for both of you. It doesn’t have to be drudgery. Gardening, walking on the golf course instead of riding in a cart, or dancing can all be fun. Be creative and be willing to join your patient in whatever exercise is chosen.
Be sure to recognize your loved one’s improved behaviors and the resulting improvement in glucose control. Everyone appreciates being acknowledged for their achievements.
*Photo: woodlywonderworks via flickr