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Diabetic elders: caregiver alert

by Isabel Fawcett

A self-described caregiver police officer to her 84-year-old mother recognizes lighthearted moments in caregiving. A diabetic elder is skilled at evading the far-reaching arm of her caregiver police daughter. It's a game of cat and mouse, much like the infamous cartoon characters of Tom and Jerry.

My mother is an insulin-dependent diabetic. Until recently, she was a pro at testing her glucose readings multiple times daily and self-administering insulin injections. Her self-discipline in analyzing her blood sugar readings daily and over periods of time was impressive. Based on independent analysis of her glucose levels she adjusted insulin doses accordingly. Her doctor cheered her on for applying sound layperson's logic to her diabetes treatment regimen.

Before becoming her full-time caregiver, I paid little attention to her self-directed treatment. I had no reason to oversee her routine(s) until I chose to become her in-home caregiver (November 2008.) Until then, I juggled caregiving moments with full-time work responsibilities.

Diabetic Ice Cream Escapade

I left work early one day to enjoy moments of leisure. After treating myself to a restaurant meal, I made it home to spend quality time with mother before nightfall. My plan did not include stress. Then again, caregiving days and nights are seldom stress-free.

As I unlocked the kitchen door I surprised to find my mom who froze like a deer in headlights, smiling broadly. Ice cream covered her mouth, tip of her nose, and her chin as she sat at our dining table. Ice cream drizzled down her wrist as she held the spoon used to raid the quart of Haagen Dasz.

"What are you doing home this early?" she asked nonchalantly, while licking ice cream off her upper and lower lip and corners of her mouth. I must have looked like a deer-in-headlights at the vision of her face and her almost successful evasion of caregiver police.

Blood Sugar Highs

Mom did not understand my stress at her ice cream escapade. She thought I was upset at her for eating "my" ice cream. Her subsequent glucose readings of 200+ still keep me on high caregiver alert. When soaring 200+ blood sugar readings appear, the only thought I have comes from a logical part of my brain.

How easily this might have been avoided, I think.

Then again, logic is not my carer's heart. One day I will laugh at all of these memories. Until then I remain on high caregiver alert. Mom continues to enjoy life on the lam from her caregiver police.

Diabetic Sugar "Tips"

  • Subject to physician input, sugary foods aren't necessarily taboo for diabetics. The trick lies in substituting small portions of sugary foods for other carbohydrates in a diabetic's meal. A skilled nutritionist can help diabetics understand how to best integrate sweets into the diabetic's nutrition plan.
  • Artificial sweeteners may help a diabetic's sweet tooth without soaring glucose readings.

Diabetic sugar tips notwithstanding, sugary foods have little nutritional value for anyone. Help your diabetic elder eat wisely.