Look out for diabetes

The Australian Diabetes Council has tips to help aged care providers prevent and manage the disease.

By Stephen Easton

Half of all people with diabetes are older than 64, but a lot don’t even know they have the disease, according to the Australian Diabetes Council.

Like many treatable diseases, diabetes can go undiagnosed in older people when symptoms like blurred vision, skin infections, slow healing and ‘pins and needles’ in the feet are assumed to be nothing more than consequences of the ageing process.  

The complications can be serious, including stroke, heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, or having a limb amputated due to blood vessel damage, and the risk only increases with age.  

As Seniors Week (the last week in March) approaches, Australian Diabetes Council CEO, Nicola Stokes, has urged older people to “live their lives to the full” and seek medical advice rather than accept that being sick is a normal part of getting older.  

“Prevention and management of symptoms and complications helps people to live healthy, fulfilling lives. You are never too old to make a healthy change,” Ms Stokes said in early January, when the Council released five tips for preventing diabetes and its related health complications.

The list includes things that community and residential care providers already encourage, like a healthy eating plan, regular exercise and limiting alcohol intake to two drinks per day. Checking feet for bruising, sores or discolouration along with regular blood pressure, cholesterol and eye checkups are also among the recommendations, which aim to encourage timely diagnosis, prevention and management of the condition.

According to Diabetes Council manager for regional NSW, Angela Blair, aged care staff can help by encouraging clients to speak up about any symptoms they experience, and knowing which could indicate the disease.  

“In older people with diabetes, their blood glucose levels go up very slowly so they often don’t have the same symptoms as a younger person, and the diagnosis can be missed,” Ms Blair said, adding that the earlier a diagnosis is made, the more easily diabetes can be managed. 

“The usual symptoms can also be seen as normal things that happen when you get older, like the sudden onset of incontinence, or they might fall more often because their blood glucose levels are too high.

“Our key message is the people who look after [elderly people] really have to focus on two aspects: the screening to keep them healthy as they age, and if they’ve already got diabetes, to identify and manage it so they don’t suffer those symptoms like incontinence, mood changes and falls – those kinds of things in aged can have significant risks.”

A manual containing information on diabetes and how to manage it from an aged care perspective is available from the Australian Diabetes Council, priced at $25.  Call 1300 342 238 for more information.

Tags: aged, aged-care, ageing, australian-diabetes-council, diabetes,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *