Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Aging Well With Diabetes

by Laura Hieronymus, MSEd, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Bob Moss, PharmD, and Parminder Kaur, PharmD, MBA

Monitoring
Using a meter to monitor your blood glucose levels is important no matter what your age. Routine checks of your blood glucose level help you know how you’re doing and allow you to take action to avoid extreme highs and lows that could cause serious problems. Regular monitoring also helps you and your health-care providers determine how well the components of your treatment plan are working to keep your diabetes under control.

A diabetes educator can help you determine which meter — or type of meter — best meets your needs, as well as advise you on when and how often to monitor. When choosing a blood glucose meter, consider the size of the equipment and how easy it is to hold and manipulate, as well as how well you can see the display screen.

If you have severe visual impairment and are unable to use a conventional meter, there are some meters that offer features such as audible (voice) directions and a minimal number of steps to make monitoring easier. Be sure to tell your health-care providers about any difficulties you’re having using your meter. Chances are, they can help you find a different way to do it or different equipment that will be easier to use.

High blood pressure is another condition that gets more common with age. If you have it, your doctor may advise you to regularly check your blood pressure at home. Go over the use of your home blood pressure meter and any other monitoring devices you use with your physician or diabetes educator to make sure you are using them correctly.

Taking medicines
Because aging is associated with the development of chronic health issues, it’s not surprising that many older people take several different medicines to control several different conditions. Keeping track of a complicated drug regimen is difficult for anyone, and it can be even more so if you can’t hear or remember instructions well, can’t see your medicines well or read medicine labels easily, or have trouble remembering to take your medicines. Some other reasons that people may not take drugs as prescribed include not being able to afford them, being depressed, and fearing drug side effects such as hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).

Taking your diabetes medicines as prescribed — at the right times and the right doses — is key to maintaining blood glucose levels in the near-normal range. If you are having trouble sticking with the drug regimen prescribed by your doctor (or perhaps by multiple doctors), talk to your health-care providers about how to make it easier on you. One solution may be to switch to a combination medicine (in which two drugs are combined in one pill) so you have fewer pills to take. If drug side effects are a problem, there may be a similar drug with fewer side effects you could try. There also may be less expensive ways to treat your condition if the cost of your medicines is prohibiting you from taking them as prescribed.

Your pharmacist may also be able to help you locate tools that will help you keep your medicines straight or services that can help you remember to take them.

Problem solving
Because you provide most of your own diabetes care, you need to know what to do when something goes wrong. The most common problems you’ll encounter are high and low blood glucose. Not only will you want to take action to correct the immediate problem (particularly when it’s low blood glucose) but you’ll want to think about what caused it and how to prevent it from happening again.

Your diabetes educator can help you learn to solve these types of diabetes-related problems. But if you’re having trouble remembering or following instructions related to your diabetes care, it’s a good idea to enlist a family member or friend to help. Bring your friend or family member to your diabetes education classes or office visits. Ask that person to take notes, if you think that will help. If you’re not sure what your friend can do to help, include your diabetes educator in the discussion; he may have some suggestions for things you haven’t thought of.

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