Thursday, June 19, 2008

Diabetes Management Challenges For Seniors

Not only is the risk for Type 2 diabetes more common as people get older, but physical, financial and medical issues are often compounded as people age.

Not enough insurance coverage, co-existing medical problems, difficulties with transportation, lack of social support, being unable to be physically active, poor nutrition; all these can come into play when elderly patients are diagnosed with diabetes.

1. Diagnosis Can Be More Difficult

Diagnosing diabetes becomes more difficult when there are already underlying symptoms of other common conditions that frequently occur with aging. Older people may not pay attention to symptoms of chronic thirst and frequent urination, instead just chalking them up to old age.

Problems such as blurred vision may be masked if cataracts or other age-related eye diseases are also concurrent. Fatigue and weakness in the extremities may also be overlooked as just a natural process of aging. Not only is the risk for Type 2 diabetes more common as people get older, but physical, financial and medical issues are often compounded as people age.

2. Complications Are More Likely

If diabetes is not diagnosed for a long period of time, the incidence of complications is higher due to the longterm damage of high blood sugar. If other medical problems are also occuring at the same time, these complications may not even be noticed until they become serious and life threatening.

* blindness

* kidney failure with resultant dialysis

* peripheral vascular disease and impaired circulation with threat of amputation

* cardiovascular disease

3. Affordable Health Care

Seniors might not be able to afford the extra expense of doctor visits, nutritionists, extra medications and supplies needed to keep diabetes under control. Very often private insurance is too expensive. There are options available to seniors for medical coverage, including Medicare Plan D which can help pay for prescriptions if you qualify for Medicare, state programs such as EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage) and State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Programs(SHIP).

4. Transportation To and From Appointments

No longer being able to drive can be a big concern. It's hard to get to doctor's appointments, pharmacies, nutritionists and other health related destinations when there's no available transportation. Sometimes physical limitations prevent seniors from taking advantage of public transportation. Community-sponsored senior transportation may be offered at small to no charge. Local government offices or senior community centers can direct you to these services.

5. Adequate Nutrition

Sometimes a fixed income means trying to cut costs and live as economically as possible. Eating healthy can be expensive and difficult to accomplish. Nutritionally balanced meals are sometimes offered in area senior centers or through senior services agencies in the community. The Meals on Wheels program will deliver a healthy meal right to the door. Ask your doctor or nutritionist about low-cost food programs that are available in the area.

6. Getting Enough Exercise

Physical activity is beneficial for all seniors but especially for seniors with diabetes. Exercise can help keep blood sugar in control. Limited mobility can interfere with getting enough exercise. Local gyms and community centers can offer exercise programs specifically designed for older adults, such as the Silver Sneakers program. Local hospitals may also be able to recommend senior fitness programs in your area. Always check with your physician before starting any exercise program.

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