Overcoming Age-Related Hurdles to Effective Diabetes Control

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Age-related problems, such as impaired vision, shaky hands, or memory loss, can get in the way of managing diabetes effectively. A few simple strategies can help older individuals with diabetes overcome many of these challenges.

If you have problems with vision or manual dexterity:

• Use a blood glucose meter that has either an easy-to-read display or an accompanying electronic voice component.

• Talk to your doctor about having your syringes preloaded to eliminate the potential for under- or over-measuring insulin. Another option is taking insulin or other injectable antidiabetic medication in loaded disposable or reusable pens. Insulin pens featuring large numbers and producing an audible “click” for each dosage unit are also available, allowing for more accurate dosing than is possible when drawing insulin from a bottle using syringes with much smaller numbers and tick marks.

If you have memory problems that make it difficult to follow your treatment plan:

• Talk to your doctor about ways to simplify your treatment regimen. You may be able to reduce the number of insulin injections you need each day, for example. Your pharmacist may also be able to preload a week’s worth of insulin syringes, which you can refrigerate at home.

• Use a pillbox to keep track of the medications you take. These can often be prefilled on a weekly basis by your pharmacist as well.

• Set an alarm to remind yourself when to take your insulin or other diabetes medications.

If you suffer from depression, which is common in older people and has been linked to diabetes:

• Talk to your doctor, especially if you have persistent feelings of sadness or you’ve lost interest in people or activities you once enjoyed. Also, alert your doctor to any unplanned weight loss or weight gain, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or refer you to a mental health specialist for counseling.

If you have trouble keeping track of all the medications you’re on:

• Ask your doctor to review your medicines to make sure you actually need them all, and to determine if you can reduce the number of pills you need to take. Be sure to tell your doctor about every drug you take, including over-the-counter medications, as well as all supplements. That way, she or he can check for side effects and potential interactions.

If you’re at risk of falling:

• Tell your doctor if you’ve fallen recently. He or she may be able to decrease your risk of doing so again by adjusting your medications or your A1c target.

• Use a cane or walker if it helps you maintain your balance.

• Talk to your doctor about physical therapy or exercise programs that can help prevent falls.

• If you have neuropathy, a condition that can be associated with poor sensation in the feet and legs, a podiatrist can recommend shoes that may help limit the consequences of the condition on your balance and risk of falling.

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