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Diabetes and the elderly: why the disease isn't a death sentence

by Kennedy Pancoast

The elderly can fight the symptoms of diabetes, both physical and financial, through awareness and commitment to treatment. Here is a discussion of diabetes in elders, including symptoms and treatment possibilities.

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent and expensive diseases in the United States. Now, imagine having to deal with it in your eighties. For elders, living with diabetes can be downright annoying. The shots, the doctors, the weight fluctuation, the cost, and the dietary changes are a lot to handle for someone set in their ways.

Diabetes and Elders: Common Symptoms

Some of the symptoms elders may live with include:

  1. Weight Gain, sometimes as a product of the medicine administered and other times because there is an excess of insulin in their bloodstream.
  2. Excessive Thirst due to a shortage of the hormone that regulates the amount of water excreted by the kidneys.
  3. Urination as a result of the large amounts of water digested
  4. Weight Loss due to the adjustment of insulin levels and excessive water
  5. Numbness or tingling in the extremities--legs, feet, toes, arms, fingers, and hands
  6. Atrophy of the muscles in the hands and feet
  7. Digestive issues such as indigestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation
  8. Weakness or general lethargy
  9. Autonomic Neuropathy (nerve damage to the eyes) can make the pupils less responsive to changes in light

Elders and Diabetes: Managing the Disease

This army of side effects is a lot for anyone to handle, but managing them all in your seventies, eighties, and nineties can be intimidating. As an elderly person, diabetes becomes a particularly constant responsibility, and despite Social Security and Medicare, an expensive one. Some new chores associated with the care of diabetes are:

  • Purchasing new and many medicines and tests to both treat and monitor your blood sugar and symptoms
  • Remembering to administer your medicines and tests on a regular basis
  • Altering your diet to respect the doctor's orders
  • Incorporating exercise into your daily routine, despite achy knees or bad hips
  • Excessive urination despite, for many, reliance on a wheelchair
  • Regular doctor visits

While this list may seem intimidating, though, there are tips to pacify the strain.

Elders and Diabetes: Tips for Dealing with the Disease

If you are suffering from diabetes, or are caring for someone who is, here are some tips for living with diabetes.

  1. Try new foods. Sure, the bacon, egg and cheese is tempting, but dare yourself to try something new and healthy. If it helps, share the experience with a friend.
  2. Attempt a new activity. There are plenty of activities that can help you reach that goal of a little exercise every day. Enjoy a low-impact swim, a walk on the beach, or a ride on the stationary bike.
  3. Find a teammate in a friend, family member or caretaker. If remembering those shots is challenging, team up with someone who can help. Staying on schedule with treatments is crucial to your health
  4. Research your illness. Exercise your mind. Learn about your disease, how best to pay for it, and new research. With Medicare, you are eligible for extensive diabetes coverage. Visit the Medicare Web site to find out more.
  5. Meet new friends. Find a support group for people with a similar struggle and don't be afraid to join. Whatever your age, it can help to share your ups and downs with a friend who understands.

Though diabetes can change the life of an elderly person, it doesn't have to end it, physically or financially. Know what you are treating and commit to a better life, for yourself or your loved one.