For today’s seniors, diabetes has rapidly become an epidemic. About one in four people over 60 in the U.S. has diabetes, a condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. If diabetes is not adequately managed, it can lead to serious health problems, from stroke and heart disease to kidney failure, hearing loss, blindness, nerve damage, and amputation. The American Diabetes Association reports that diabetes is the nation’s seventh-leading cause of death.
While there is not yet a known cure for diabetes, through close management – from carefully monitoring medications to adjusting diet, exercising often, and regularly testing blood glucose – most diabetics can take control of their symptoms and avoid further complications.
Meeting the challenges
Leading senior living communities are making a dedicated effort to educate and support senior residents who are living with diabetes. StoneGate Senior Living, for example, a provider of rehabilitation, skilled nursing, assisted living, and memory care services, recently partnered with ARKRAY USA and the Diabetes Store, two leaders in diabetes care. The goal was to expand StoneGate’s diabetes management program to 41 facilities throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado – providing patient education and guidance in self-management to improve residents’ quality of life.
“While diabetes can have dire consequences for adults of all ages, seniors are at particularly high risk from diabetic complications,” says Angela Norris, Senior Vice President of Business Development at StoneGate. “The body’s ability to heal wanes with age, while the presence of age-related conditions, such as impaired vision, decreased skin elasticity, reduced mobility, and a less-active lifestyle, can work against effective disease management. Also, many seniors with diabetes are struggling with memory issues. Their insulin and medications need to be closely monitored.”
Managing the disease
“Our goal is to provide a personalized diabetes wellness plan for each resident living with diabetes,” Norris says. “Our staff is trained to help residents – short term and long term alike – to monitor food intake, engage in daily exercise, regularly check blood sugar levels, and closely manage medications. We also make sure our diabetic residents have regular eye exams, skin assessments, and podiatrist visits to help prevent complications.
“Partnering with ARKRAY and the Diabetes Store has amplified our efforts to educate residents – and give them the tools to better control blood sugar, avoid the side effects of the disease, and live healthy, active lives,” Norris notes.
Key to managing diabetes is a healthy-eating plan that helps control blood sugar – one naturally rich in nutrients, low in fat and calories, and abundant with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
“We conduct a nutrition evaluation and provide support to help our diabetic residents get the daily nutrients they need,” Norris says. “We also provide diabetes management classes that help them track eating patterns and determine what foods may or may not be the best choices. Our registered dieticians help plan menus and educate our residents on making healthy food choices. Meals can be prepared in accordance with a prescribed diet.”
Making time for exercise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults over the age of 65 need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, such as brisk walking, and at least two days per week of strength training that works all the muscle groups. Exercise is particularly critical for diabetic seniors to improve their ability to use glucose.
“StoneGate offers the LifeWorks Senior Wellness program, featuring purpose-driven exercise that helps diabetic seniors stay active and lower their blood glucose levels,” Norris says. “Fitness classes are designed to help maintain and improve strength, balance, and flexibility.”
Maintaining optimum health
“As baby boomers age, we can expect a continued spike in the rate of diabetes,” Norris says. “While untreated diabetes presents significant risks of a range of serious health problems, these risks can be vastly improved by appropriate medical and lifestyle interventions. Our goal is to help diabetic residents take control of their disease and – through education, lifestyle modification, and continued vigilance – stay healthy.”
CONTACT US to learn more about our services to support seniors who are living with diabetes.