Diabetes Care: What Causes Diabetes in the Elderly?
Diabetes is an increasingly common life-long condition. Unfortunately, there is no cure. However, through a mixture of lifestyle adjustments and medication, the condition can be managed. While there are different types of diabetes, they all involve difficulties with the body’s production of insulin, leading to dangerously high blood sugar levels.
What is diabetes?
Inside the human body, just behind the stomach, is a gland called the pancreas. The pancreas produces insulin, which is essential when regulating blood sugar levels. Insulin ensures that the glucose (sugar) we get from food can travel from the blood to the cells. The cells are where glucose becomes energy. Diabetes occurs when something interrupts this process. It can be because the body does not produce enough insulin, or it can be because the insulin does not function properly.
The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. A third, less common type is gestational diabetes, which can develop during pregnancy. Detection of diabetes is carried out with a blood or urine test. Symptoms include tiredness, muscle and weight loss, blurred vision, slow healing cuts, increased urination (especially at night), and itching around the genitalia.
Longer-term effects of diabetes can include the development of other serious conditions such as strokes, heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, hearing loss, foot problems and eye problems (including blindness). The diagnosis and treatment of diabetes should happen as soon as your loved one shows symptoms. Diabetes care can be delivered in combination with other types of elderly care.
The majority of those living with diabetes have type 2, and it is most likely that older people will develop this type of diabetes. Understanding type 2 diabetes is an integral part of elderly care. Type 2 diabetes is the easiest to prevent and manage, but it can take a long time to diagnose because the symptoms are so general and can be associated with natural ageing.
Colin and Dulcie’s story
Dulcie is 102-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for over two years.
We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.
Causes of diabetes
If someone has blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to qualify as diabetes, they may have pre-diabetes. Once diagnosed with pre-diabetes, there is an increased risk of developing diabetes in future. The earlier the diagnosis of high blood sugar, the easier it is to treat and the less likely it is to develop into full diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys any insulin it tries to produce. This type of diabetes cannot be prevented and develops very quickly and requires insulin injections to control. Management of diabetes is not possible by lifestyle changes alone. Most people who develop type 1 diabetes are children or young adults. Sudden onset is rarer in older people.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce sufficient amounts of insulin. It is often linked with being overweight, or not exercising enough. As such, lifestyle changes such as improved diet and exercise can reduce the risk. Stopping smoking is also essential, as smokers are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be managed through diet and exercise, but as the condition progresses, insulin tablets or injections may be required.
There is an increased risk of type 2 diabetes if there is a family history of the condition. If a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, is living with the condition, it is vital to be extra vigilant for potential symptoms.
Older people with type 2 diabetes may also experience cognitive impairments or depression, which in turn can make self-management of diabetes more difficult. In these circumstances, home care or live-in care may become necessary. There is also the option of dementia care to help ensure correct diabetes care.
Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s blood glucose can increase until the body cannot produce enough insulin to manage it. Gestational diabetes should disappear after the baby is born. Women who experienced gestational diabetes in pregnancy are, however, more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when they are older.
Diabetes care is not just about managing the symptoms. It is also crucial to reduce the risk of developing other conditions that are associated with diabetes. In addition to regularly visiting a doctor to monitor diabetes, it is important to check blood pressure and cholesterol to help avoid further health complications.
Private care is an option that can provide support to help manage your loved one’s diabetes and ensures that all aspects of your loved one’s health are monitored.
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