If you don’t have a close friend or family member to bring with you to health-care appointments, talk to your diabetes educator about other sources of help that may be available to you. Perhaps there are services or support organizations in your community that you can call on for particular types of help. In addition, ask your diabetes care providers for health information in writing so you can refer back to it as needed.
The longer a person has diabetes, the higher his risk of developing disease-related complications. The good news is that these complications can be prevented or at least minimized by maintaining optimal blood glucose, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure control.
To achieve good control, it’s important to schedule and keep regular appointments with your health-care provider. Your health-care provider can advise you on self-care measures for you to do on your own, and prescribe medicines, if necessary. He can also make arrangements for preventive measures such as getting annual flu vaccines, a pneumonia vaccine if you need one, routine foot care, and eye exams. Smoking raises your risk of developing long-term health complications such as heart disease and cancer, so if you smoke, ask your doctor for help in quitting.
One of the risks of uncontrolled diabetes that may be particularly important to older people is the risk of falling. Both high and low blood glucose can cause symptoms such as drowsiness, dizziness, and an inability to think clearly — all of which can contribute to a fall. Longer-term diabetes complications that cause visual impairment or loss of sensation in the feet (neuropathy) can also raise the risk of falling. When an older person falls, the risk of fracture is high, and the outcome of a fracture is frequently a loss of independent functioning.
“Fall-proofing” yourself and your home is a big job, but it’s worth thinking about to stay safe and healthy. Talk to your doctor about how your medical condition and the drugs or other therapies you use affect your risk of falling. Have a look at http://mysafehome.org to start thinking about how to make your home safer.
The stress of living with diabetes can be enormous at times. If you develop diabetes-related complications or other chronic health conditions, you are likely to feel even more stressed. And the loss of family members, friends, and other social connections that inevitably occurs with aging can test your coping skills as well.
Having skills to cope with stressful life events or ongoing situations is important at any age — and it’s never too late to develop new ones. Even if you have never felt you “needed” such activities before, don’t rule out the possibility of joining a support group, participating in faith-based or interest-based activity groups, or joining an exercise class or group that is appropriate to your level of fitness. Building new relationships can help you to feel more supported and less alone.
Even with good coping skills, living with a chronic disease or experiencing a serious loss can lead to depression. Depression affects more than 6.5 million Americans over 65. But while depression is common in seniors, it should not be considered a normal part of aging. When recognized, depression can be treated successfully.
If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of depression such as frequent or constant irritability, disruption in sleep patterns, fatigue, feelings of social isolation or neglect, or increased use of alcohol or drugs, talk to your health-care provider. While you may or may not be depressed, you do have a problem, and talking it over with your health-care provider can help to clarify what is going on and what to do about it.