Reaching Out: Strategies for Managing Diabetes in Older People

Diabetes and Elderly peopleWith people in America living longer than ever, providing effective healthcare is presenting new problems, especially for the elderly and for the provision of diabetes testing and care.  Elderly people are the most at risk from this disease, yet often they are less likely than other population groups to have access to testing facilities and care.  The number of elderly people in the US is projected to double to 71.5 million by 2030, 20% of the whole population.  Minority groups, some of whom are genetically predisposed to Type II diabetes, may have a greater proportion of this increase.  African American populations, for example, have a higher incidence of Type II diabetes, and are set to increase from 9% to 12% in the age group 65+.

This leaves healthcare officials with problems in educating the elderly about diabetes as well as treating people with the condition. Older people may be less mobile and less able to travel to medical facilities and because they are retired and may not get out much, they are not likely to take part in programs that offer on-the-spot diabetes testing.  Poorer education among some ethnic groups may also mean they are less aware of the implications of diabetes, and less open to receiving testing and management counseling.

Although awareness of diabetes and its symptoms is being increased through the media via television programs, printed articles and the work of celebrities such as Wilford Brimley, continued education is vital.  The importance of lifestyle in lessening the risk of developing diabetes, the symptoms of diabetes and the management of the disease all need to be put across to seniors.  Approaches need to be structured to take into account cultural values and lifestyles in order to help minority group seniors who are at risk from the condition or have already developed it.

Medicare and Medicaid have taken this need on board and now cover diabetes management education programs, but health officials reported disappointing attendance figures at classes.  Diabetes organizations such as the American Association of Diabetes Educators have attempted to improve this by taking the classes into local libraries, churches, schools, senior centers and other venues where they are more accessible to older people.  This has resulted in better attendance and participation by seniors.

In  remote areas, or when elderly patients are mobility challenged, or otherwise have difficulty in attending medical facilities, healthcare personnel are increasingly using telemedicine.  This can be as simple as giving advice over the telephone, or can involve the use of home testing and monitoring equipment.  The use of this equipment also has benefits in helping the user to understand his condition better and even to anticipate blood sugar changes after eating certain foods or taking part in activities.  The use of the equipment may also benefit the patient’s morale and give them greater control of his body and condition.

Diabetes “clustering” in certain areas has been identified through geo-mapping to give a picture of areas that may suffer from a lack of accessible facilities or that could benefit from strategies such as the deployment of telemedicine.

Next Post → ← Previous Post