Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting older adults. According to the CDC, 33% of adults over 65 have diabetes. Independent living communities offer numerous opportunities to learn how to manage chronic illnesses as well as fitness programs to boost health.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes affects how your body turns food into energy. When you eat, food is broken down into sugar and released into your bloodstream. The pancreas releases insulin which controls how your body’s cells use it to create energy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream which can cause serious health issues over time.
Complications affecting older adults
Whether you live at senior communities or private homes, older adults often have at least one chronic condition such as high blood pressure or cognitive impairment that can impact diabetes treatment. Additionally, seniors have a greater risk of developing diabetes-related complications such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), kidney failure and heart disease. These conditions can impact older adults’ abilities to self-manage diabetes if left unaddressed.
Seniors with diabetes tend to have a higher rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than older adults who do not have the disease. Researchers are examining the effects of blood sugar variations on the brain. Findings already show that poorly managed blood sugar levels are associated with an even greater decline in cognitive function. Ongoing studies evaluating whether preventing or delaying diabetes onset may help to maintain cognitive function in older adults.
Living a healthy life with diabetes
The best independent living communities offer programs to help individuals support and manage diabetes and other chronic health conditions. If you have diabetes, there are some steps you should take to live a healthy lifestyle controlling your blood sugar.
- Track your glucose levels. Blood sugar levels that are too high or too low can be risky to your health. Independent living communities may be able to provide assistance if necessary.
- Make healthy food choices. Food affects glucose levels, making your food choices and the amount you eat very important. Independent living communities offer healthy meal choices including delicious dishes created specifically for residents with diabetes and other special diet considerations.
- Be active. Exercise can help improve glucose levels in older people with diabetes. Independent living communities offer in-house fitness centers led by fitness professionals who can customize exercise regimens that are fun and effective.
- Take your medicines. You should take medicine as prescribed even when you feel good. If you experience side effects with certain medications, tell your doctor. Active adult communities can help provide reminders to take your necessary medications every day.
- Manage chronic conditions. Get regular checkups to stay on top of other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Stop Smoking.
- Monitor your eyes and kidneys. Diabetes can do serious damage to your kidneys and your eyesight if not monitored. Urine and blood tests will show if your kidneys are functioning properly. Yearly eye exams can keep your eyes healthy by finding and treating eye problems early. Independent living communities offer transportation options to get you to your doctor’s appointments.
- Look at your feet. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause circulation problems that severely damage feet. Take time to look at your feet every day for any red patches. If you have sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections, or build-up of calluses, see a foot doctor, called a podiatrist. Senior communities often have podiatrists who visit campuses regularly.
- Talk with your doctor about your concerns. If you think you might need help with your management plan, are depressed, are worried about your memory, or have any other concerns, talk with your doctor.
How senior communities can help manage diabetes
Managing diabetes is a big job, and can become increasingly difficult for older adults. If you are living in a private home, it may be more difficult to prepare healthy meals, stay active and monitor blood sugar. This can lead to severe complications.
Independent living communities can assist residents in managing diabetes, providing better health for the senior and peace of mind for family members.
At independent living communities, residents receive nutritious meals planned by certified dietitians and prepared by a team of chefs.
Most senior communities feature on-campus fitness centers led by professionals to help plan a customized exercise routine to help you meet goals such as losing weight. And the best independent living communities provide educational events on topics including managing various chronic conditions including diabetes.