Has anyone ever said to you, “Don’t worry, diabetes isn’t very serious for older people?” Although they may be trying to make you feel better, it isn’t very good advice. Most people not only want to live long but they want to live well. Taking care of your diabetes and keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure as close to normal as possible lowers your risks for diabetes complications. That also means you have a better chance of being healthy and independent longer.
As we get older, we tend to think more about health. We realize that we can’t take our health for granted. When we are younger, it’s easy to think that we are going to take care of ourselves “tomorrow,” but as the years go by suddenly tomorrow is here. Each day becomes more precious.
Some things about aging make it harder to care for diabetes. You may have other health problems to take care of every day. It can be hard to manage everything or afford all of the different pills and supplies. Some people find that their tastes and eating patterns change. It can be hard to eat if you are alone or your spouse can no longer shop for food. Also a time of loss can drain your spirit and lead to depression.
Some people find it easier to care for their diabetes as they get older. They have the advantage of having more time to think about their health than they did when they were younger. Although it seems like you are always on the go, you may not have the demands and stress of a busy job and young children. You may feel less inclined to do things to please other people and find it easier to pay attention to your own health when you don’t have others to care for. You also probably know others with diabetes to receive and give support.
There is also help available. Many churches or synagogues and most communities have services for older adults. Home care, Meals on Wheels, other support services or simply asking a neighbor or family member to call you everyday can help you stay independent and healthy longer. Your doctor, nurse or health department can give you information.
As with younger people, treatment for older people generally involves changing the diet. If the person is overweight, a loss of 10 to 15 pounds may improve blood sugar control significantly. The next step in treating diabetes involves an exercise program tailored to the individual. If, after several weeks of conservative treatment the levels of fasting blood glucose continue to be high, oral medications are often recommended. If this initial trial of treatments is not effective the physician will most likely suggest insulin treatment.
Taking care of your diabetes is important at every age and there are many treatment options available. With proper treatment you can live longer and live well with diabetes.