Do You Take Care of an Older Adult with Diabetes? Your Support Can Go a Long Way

By: 
the National Diabetes Education Program

Diabetes occurs in people of all ages, but it’s more common in older adults. If you are taking care of an elderly loved one with diabetes, you can play an important role in helping them manage their disease. This is important because diabetes can lead to other serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

It can be hard to make lifestyle changes to stay healthy. Support from family and friends such as offering to plan healthy meals can help. Help your loved one make healthy food choices that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and water or low-fat or nonfat milk products.

Being active most days of the week is an important part of staying healthy. It can help your loved one be more flexible, increase their strength and improve their balance. Find activities that you can do together, such as walking, dancing, or gardening. Start slow and work up to being active 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

You can also help your loved one cope with the everyday tasks of managing diabetes. Ask if you can help with reminders about doctor visits and encourage them to check their blood glucose (sugar) and take their medicine as prescribed by their healthcare team. Help your loved one write a list of questions for their doctor or healthcare team and attend appointments with them if you can. Ask the doctor about your loved one’s diabetes ABCs goals (A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, stop smoking) and how to achieve these goals to prevent diabetes-related health problems. Insurance plans and Medicare can also cover some of the costs of their diabetes care.

Diabetes can be hard to handle alone. As a caregiver, your support goes a long way to helping your loved one cope with diabetes. Being a good listener and helping your loved one manage the stress of diabetes are often the most important things you can do to support them. The following questions are good starting points:

  • Do you ever feel down or overwhelmed about all you have to do to manage your diabetes?
  • Have you set goals to manage your diabetes?
  • Have you talked to your health care team about your diabetes care and how you want to reach your goals?
  • What can I do to help? (Example: Are there things I can do to make it easier for you to live with diabetes? If you want to be more active, will it help if we take walks together?)

Visit the National Diabetes Education Program’s Diabetes Resources for Older Adults web page to find more tools to help you better understand the issues that affect diabetes in older adults.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.