Helping A Diabetic Family Member Age Comfortably And Safely At Home
By Jess Walter
Recent research by AARP showed that almost 90 percent of current homeowners approaching retirement age wish to stay in their homes. For the 12 million seniors currently living with diabetes in America, having a stress-free life while aging in place may require some adjustments to become a reality. The effects of the condition on those in their older years can become pronounced and difficult to manage. As we age, diabetes can be associated with further health complications, including visual impairment and amputation; both of which can further complicate the issue of them aging at home comfortably and safely. With this in mind, if you have an older loved one wishing to spend their later years at home instead of a care facility, there are actions you can take to make it possible and secure.
Make Mobility And Ease Of Access A Priority
Diabetes is often associated with a decline in function, including mobility for older adults. When combined with the increased prevalence of loss of mobility that is common in older age, older adults can find themselves not just confined to their homes without aid but also constricted in their movements around their own homes. Because limb amputations and memory impairment are also common for those living with diabetes, simple home adjustments to aid mobility and access promotes independence and self-sufficiency.
Set out a documented and easy place of access for their medications, such as bedside table drawers or lower-level cabinets. Having medication aids and alerts, such as Take and Slide, automated medication dispensers or mobile medical alert apps can help them stay on track with their dosages. For those struggling with particular mobility issues, be sure to take a look at your bathroom first and start with its location. Ideally, you want it to be situated on the same level as the bedroom. The installation of shower grab bars, a walk-in tub, anti-slip mats along with a hands-free toilet can help reduce the chances of an accident in the bathroom. Elsewhere in the home, consider stairlifts and handrails or ramps at entry points.
Encourage Healthy Eating And Family Mealtimes
While most older adults will be placed on medication to regulate their blood sugar, it is always recommended that they practice healthy lifestyle habits since they can help to balance blood sugar levels naturally. One of the most common recommendations is eating a healthy diet, including lean protein, non- or low-fat dairy, fresh vegetables, fruits and legumes. Those with diabetes will also want to avoid alcohol, refined sugars and limit their intake of salt to 2,000 mg or less.
Start with choosing suitable recipes to make for the entire family and getting everyone involved in the preparations for a family meal at least once a week. The reduced independence and movement that many older diabetic patients face often means many of them may find themselves facing isolation and struggling with depression and their mental health as a result. In fact, three in five people with diabetes face mental health struggles and it is not uncommon for older adults to experience a range of emotions and feelings throughout their diabetic diagnosis. Having family support can go a long way in reducing that feeling of loneliness and showing support for the healthy lifestyle habits needed in their daily lives.
Promote A Stress-Free Home Environment And Lifestyle
In the past, there has been evidence that there is a link between stress levels and diabetes. When people are stressed, their bodies release hormones, such as cortisol in response, which in turn can promote insulin resistance. This can then lead to blood sugar levels rising, similar to the higher levels of glucose experienced in pregnancy sometimes. Therefore, promoting a restful, calm and relaxing home environment is important for those living with diabetes. In addition to promoting a restful environment in the bedroom, older adults can take part in relaxation techniques at home, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and tai chi.
It can also be a lot to keep up with medications and accept the daily limitations of living with their diagnosis, which can further fuel stress levels. In this case, speaking to family members and healthcare professionals can help them make sense of their emotions through it all and find healthy coping mechanisms. From a family member’s point of view, letting them know you are there and ready to listen can make all the difference. Make it a point to have one on one time with your elderly loved one at least once a week to not just check on their physical health but also their emotional wellbeing.
For those with relatives living with medical conditions like diabetes, we often wonder how we can best support and comfort them, in their choice to age at home and lead a full and normal life. These small changes can help them lead an independent and happy life, whilst giving you the peace of mind knowing they are taken care of.