Caring for someone with type 1 diabetes means learning more about the disease and how to work closely with their physician and care team. If you are the caregiver for a family member with diabetes, this guide can help you understand how the disease impacts older adults differently than younger people and what assistance caregivers may be called on to provide.
The Role of Family in Diabetes Care
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetes occurs when “the pancreas does not produce insulin. It requires monitoring blood sugar and administering multiple daily insulin injections with a pen, syringe, or a pump.”
While type 1 diabetes is often associated with children, it can actually be diagnosed at any age. It isn’t uncommon for an older adult to be misdiagnosed with type 2 when they are actually living with type 1 diabetes. That’s why it’s essential for the senior to work closely with their physician.
As a caregiver supporting someone with diabetes, you may be called on to assist with tasks such as:
- Testing blood sugar
- Managing insulin intake and other medications
- Preparing and eating healthy foods
- Getting regular exercise
- Assisting with stress management
You’ll also need to coordinate and communicate with the senior’s care team. The care team for an older adult with diabetes usually includes:
- Primary care physician to manage and monitor their overall health
- Endocrinologist to focus specifically on their diabetes and insulin
- Dietitian to help create diabetes-friendly menus and meal plans
- Certified diabetes educator to teach both of you about disease management
- Diabetes-friendly podiatrist to prevent or intervene early in foot sores and problems common among diabetics
- Pharmacist to help avoid or minimize medication interactions and side effects
Depending on the senior’s personal situation, the team may also include an exercise physiologist, a nephrologist, or a dentist.
Providing family support for diabetes patients might mean working with a mental health professional to learn to recognize the signs of depression in a senior. Since diabetics are at greater risk for developing depression, it’s important to be on guard against it so a physician can intervene early.
Diabetes Information for Families
Because older adults with diabetes are more likely to have mobility issues that make it difficult to exercise or drive to the grocery store to purchase fresh foods or diabetic care supplies, they may need to rely more heavily on family caregivers. Educating yourself about the disease can help you feel more comfortable with the role and give you a better understanding of how diabetes affects family members.
If you are a family caregiver trying to understand how to care for someone with diabetes, their physician is a great, first source for information. They can help you learn more about your senior loved one’s specific needs and provide care strategies for supporting individuals with diabetes.
Beyond that, there are a variety of useful tools and resources available online regarding helping someone with diabetes, including:
- American Diabetes Association Blog
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Education Program
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Diabetes Daily
You may also find it helpful to employ the services of a home care agency. Professional caregivers can assist with tasks such as bathing, grooming, and dressing. They will also be able to provide support with light housekeeping, transportation, and meal preparation.
Call the Griswold location nearest you to inquire about services that may be available for a loved one with type 1 diabetes. An experienced team member will be happy to set up a time to meet with your family!