If your elderly parent has been diagnosed with diabetes, they are not alone. An astounding 25 percent of Americans over the age of 60 are suffering from this disease. The common complications from long-term unmanaged diabetes include neuropathy, or nerve pain, heart disease, eye diseases and stroke. Another potential development that is not as widely well-known is the development of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Several studies have confirmed that diabetes doubles the risk of developing dementia.
Longstanding, uncontrolled glucose levels in the blood can ultimately affect the arteries, causing plaque formation and narrowing. This occurs in the arteries of the brain as well as the rest of the body. The result is less oxygen supplied to the tissues which ultimately leads to dementia. Vascular dementia is caused by a series of mini strokes that damage and destroy brain tissue.
As a family caregiver, you will often notice changes in your loved one even before they do. If you notice any of these warning signs, make an urgent appointment with your parent’s primary health care provider.
Confusion and short-term memory loss.
Losing one’s sense of place and time—they may get lost in familiar places or have a hard time keeping the thread of a conversation.
Walking into rooms and forgetting what they were going to do.
How to Help
Help your loved one control their diabetes through diet and exercise. This would include incorporating one of the many meal plans specific for this disease. The plate plan, carbohydrate counting and the glycemic index plan are all dietary suggestions designed with the diabetic in mind. Make sure your loved one checks their blood glucose levels regularly and maintains a running tab that can be shared with their primary health care providers.
Exercise is vital to controlling blood sugar levels as well as blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor in the development of both diabetes and dementia. Help your loved one incorporate their favorite exercise into their daily regime. This could mean a walk through the neighborhood or an adjacent green space to attending one of the many exercise classes at the senior community center or YMCA.
Home Health Care Provider
A home health care provider can assist your loved one with the daily activities of living. They can do the grocery shopping and return to prepare diabetic-friendly meals. They can accompany your parent on walks as well as provide transportation. They offer that all-important sometimes forgotten element of a life well lived—companionship.