About 25 percent of Americans over the age of 60 have diabetes. As people get older, type 2 diabetes becomes more common. Consider a few simple tips to make aging and diabetes healthier and easier.
- Ask for help if you need it. Often it can be difficult to admit you need assistance. Talk to your doctor if you are having difficulties checking your blood sugar or reading your blood pressure monitor. Changes can be made to help improve your diabetes self-management plan. Your doctor might recommend using simple monitors rather than high tech ones. Find out if your health insurance covers assistance such as a diabetes nurse educator, a dietitian and a physical therapist. Some out of pocket home health agencies supply helpers such as a cleaning or cooking assistant. Medicare advantage plans offer Silver Sneaker exercise classes which are especially geared to older adults.
- Over one-quarter of adults over the age of 40 with diabetes also experience diabetic retinopathy. The small blood vessels in the retina can become damaged leading to bleeding and vision loss. Cataracts and glaucoma are also common in older people with diabetes. Schedule appointments with your ophthalmologist every six months or year, as recommended. Nerve damage can also lead to hearing loss. Have your hearing checked annually.
- Diabetic neuropathy can make it difficult to feel your feet. Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap, and then dry them completely. Apply a moisturizer, avoiding the areas between your toes. Check your feet for sores, cuts, blister, callouses or other abrasions. Wear comfortable, breathable footwear that fits properly and socks without seams. Always wear shoes, including sturdy slippers at home and water shoes at the beach. Look inside your shoes before putting them on and remove foreign items. People over 65 who have diabetes are entitled to podiatric care for proper nail cutting and a free pair of diabetic shoes yearly. If you are trimming them on your own, use a nail clipper and emery board to file them down. Remove your socks and shoes during routine medical examinations to have your feet checked.
- It is important to take medication as directed by your diabetes health care team. Often older people have multiple prescriptions to remember. Set up reminders by placing pill containers on the table where you eat your meal or use a smart phone app that can be scheduled to ring when it is pill time. A pill box can also be a helpful way to keep up with daily medications. Keep a card in your wallet that indicates the medications you take, the doses and how often they are taken, along with the phone numbers of your medical doctor and pharmacy. This can be particularly helpful in an emergency situation.
- As people get older, their fine motor skills might be impaired by vision problems, arthritis and other health issues. This could make it more difficult to load an insulin syringe, give an injection or even pick up a test strip. Talk to your doctor about using a preloaded insulin pen.
- Talk to your diabetes health care team about good ways to fit exercise into your daily routine if you are not entitled to Silver Sneakers. This might include walking, swimming or gentle stretching. Simple activities can include marching in place for 10 minutes while you watch television. Gradually build up your exercise time, based on the advice of your doctor.
- A well-balanced diet is essential when you have diabetes. If your budget is tight, consider buying frozen foods rather than fresh ones. Local farmers markets often sell produce at a discount. Generic store brands can be as nutritious as regular brands. Read the labels on foods to find out. Ask about senior food programs at local community centers, including Meals on Wheels and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food assistance programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).
- Another concern for seniors on a budget is the cost of diabetes supplies. Never reuse supplies that are meant to be disposable. This can lead to infections and other health complications. Purchase supplies online to help cut costs.
With proper lifestyle habits and some planning, aging and diabetes can be easier than you think. Ask for help and always inquire about ways to improve your diabetes self-management plan. Your golden years can be great when you take proper care of yourself!