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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
Could my dad be showing symptoms of diabetes?
The three major symptoms of diabetes are extreme thirst or hunger, fatigue and itchy skin. Other common diabetes symptoms are weight loss, blurred vision, sores that don’t heal and increased urination, especially at night. So if your dad is showing any of these signs, get him to a doctor.
Most people think of diabetes as a childhood disease, but diabetes is the sixth-highest cause of death among the elderly. Nearly one in 12 people over the age of 65 comes down with what is known as adult-onset – or Type 2 – diabetes. If your dad is over 85, the risk is much higher; one in four people in their mid-80s and older becomes diabetic. If your dad is also overweight and inactive, he’s dramatically increasing his odds of becoming diabetic. Women actually get diabetes more often than men, and African-Americans and people with high blood pressure are at a higher risk as well. Also, keep in mind that those who have parents or siblings with diabetes have an increased chance of acquiring the disease, so if your dad is diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll need to monitor your own health.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in those older than middle-age. But it doesn’t end there. The bodies of those with diabetes can’t regulate the level of glucose in the system. Without a regulator in charge, too little glucose reaches the body’s cells, badly affecting the cells’ performance so that they don’t function or reproduce. At the same time, too much glucose remains in the bloodstream, resulting in hardened arteries, damage to the retina, skin disorders and a deteriorated nervous system.
It’s important to catch the symptoms of diabetes as early as possible, so make sure your father has a blood sugar level test – a prick on the finger – as part of his annual cholesterol exam. The American Diabetes Association warns that of the 16 million adults with diabetes, about 5 million aren’t even aware of it, and only one in four people diagnosed with the disease is receiving proper treatment. Why? Many of the diabetes symptoms appear to be age-related, so older people think it is just part of the “aging package.” Many people remain symptom-free until real damage has already been done.
If your dad is diagnosed with diabetes, the doctor will probably recommend some lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising and following a diabetic diet. Insulin therapy, which will stimulate insulin secretion to get fuel levels regulated, might also be in order. Few patients take to this new routine like fish to water. Old habits, especially when they involve food, are hard to change. Become your dad’s trainer and help with food preparation, exercising and medications. Your father’s blood sugar will need to be monitored every day with a blood testing meter. Also, watch out for his foot care since he is vulnerable to nerve damage and he might not notice injuries to his feet. Infections can easily set in, placing him at risk for amputation.
If you’re worried he is not eating properly, hire someone (or take it upon yourself) to prepare meals for the week that are diabetic-friendly and freeze them in microwavable containers. Meals on Wheels programs also provide diabetic meals. Call your local senior center to find the program that’s closest to your dad.
Medicare covers some diabetic supplies, so be sure to check with your doctor’s office as to what is covered. An excellent website with links to plenty of other top-notch sites is by the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases at niddk.nih.gov. Be sure to check out their Am I at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes? publication. The American Diabetes Association is another great resource; call them at 1.800.342.2383 or visit them at diabetes.org. And if you’re over 45 years old, the American Diabetes Association recommends that you add to your annual physical – or at least every three years – a blood glucose check, even if you don’t have diabetes symptoms.
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