Betty used to be the spunky lady in the neighborhood—she'd laugh and splash in the puddles with the kids during a summer rain storm, drive folks to appointments and the grocery store, and cook-up great dishes from the fresh vegetables she grew in her garden and then deliver the meals to the seniors down the street who couldn't get out. Now Betty doesn't get out much herself anymore. Diabetes has robbed her of both her legs and her sight, and now she's wheelchair bound.
Unfortunately, Betty's story isn't all that unusual or extreme. Diabetes, the cases of which are expected to double between 2000 and 2030 worldwide, often goes undiagnosed for many years because many of its early symptoms seem so harmless. But the long term effects of not diagnosing or treating the disease can result in devastating blindness, loss of limbs and even coma or death. Diabetes isn't a given though. According to the American Diabetes Association, even if you or a loved one are diagnosed with the disease, with correct diabetes care treatment and recommended lifestyle changes, you may be able to prevent or delay the onset of complications.
What is Diabetes?
Our bodies break down most of the food we eat into glucose. That glucose is then used as fuel for our systems. In order for the glucose to get into our cells to do its job, it needs insulin. In individuals with diabetes, their pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin, according to the National Institutes of Health. As a result, they end up with high blood glucose levels—the main characteristic of diabetes.
There are several types of diabetes:
- Type 1, which is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.
- Type 2, the most common form where either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore it altogether.
- Gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
- Pre-diabetes, a condition which means blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem so harmless. And in many cases, people with Type 2 diabetes display no symptoms at all. According to the American Diabetes Association, the most common symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased appetite
- Unusual weight loss
- Extreme fatigue and irritability
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections
- Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet
If you or a loved one are experiencing some or all of these symptoms, be sure to get to a doctor as soon as possible. A simple blood test can help to confirm this diagnosis and set you on a path to manage your diabetes and prevent complications.
Diabetes Care Essentials:
According to the American Diabetes Association, with proper diabetes care, including management and recommended lifestyle changes, you or your loved one can control the diabetes and live a healthy life.
Generally, people with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as anyone else, and eating well-balanced meals is the main goal. Exercise is also an important component of managing diabetes and it can also help prevent heart disease and high blood pressure.
It is also recommended to check blood glucose levels each day and log the results. This way you and your doctor can determine if your diabetes management plan is working.
There are many people with diabetes who need medication to help keep blood glucose levels down. Oral medications are often used, while others may require insulin injections around mealtime or as little as once a day.
The good news is that with treatment and healthy living, many people with diabetes are able to prevent or delay the onset of complications such as vision loss, nerve damage and high blood pressure.
How the Home Instead Senior Care Network Can Help:
When caught early, diabetes care is more about making healthy food and lifestyle choices. Home Instead CAREGiversSM arrive prepared to assist from start to finish with meal planning and preparation. They can help create a day-by-day menu of healthy meals, pull together a shopping list, help with the shopping, and then assist with meal preparation. CAREGivers can also facilitate opportunities for exercise such as a walk in the park or providing transportation to attend a fitness class. And since proper management of medications is so important with diabetes, Home Instead CAREGivers can assist with medication reminders. If complications from the diabetes have developed, CAREGivers can also assist with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, household chores and errands.
Visit our Home Care Services center to get more details and options.
The Home Instead Senior Care® is working together with the American Diabetes Association to bring you a variety of diabetes-related information and materials designed to help you provide diabetes care for yourself or a loved one.
The American Diabetes Association's mission is to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes by: funding research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivering services to hundreds of communities; providing objective and credible information; and giving voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes.