The 10th leading cause of death in Singapore, diabetes is a chronic condition that is best managed with regular medication, proper nutrition and diet, as well as regular doctor visits. With the number of diabetic patients projected to increase from 400,000 (2013) to 600,000 (2030), understanding what the condition encompasses is essential to providing the right caregiving services – be it for yourself or for a loved one. Because Singapore has an aging population, the risk of an increase in diabetic patients is multiplied.
Before you can delve into the specifics, it’s best you learn more about diabetes as a condition.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body produces insufficient insulin, a hormone that helps balance blood sugar levels in your body. Alternatively, when the body doesn’t respond well to insulin, there will be excess sugar in the blood. High levels of blood sugar is detrimental to the overall balance of your health.
There are three main types of diabetes:
This type is usually inherited and not preventable. Also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells producing insulin, hence, the patient is unable to produce their own insulin. It commonly develops in adolescence – with select cases in adulthood. Family history, genetics, and age all play a role in the likelihood of developing Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body metabolises sugar. It either resists the effects of insulin – which is necessary to regulate the movement of sugar into cells – or doesn’t produce enough insulin. More and more children are being diagnosed with Type 2, mainly due to a spike in obesity rates.
This type develops during pregnancy when one’s body isn’t capable of producing enough insulin for extra needs during this period. Gestational diabetes can cause problems such as premature birth, increasing need for induced labour, or jaundice in your baby. However, it is highly manageable with early detection.
Often, treatment for diabetes comprises a balance between diet management and exercise, oral medication, and insulin injections.
Meal Planning and Exercise
For mild diabetics, diet management is the preferred option. Meal planning, if done correctly and consistently, can negate the need for medication. Work on achieving a normal (as near as possible) blood glucose level and healthy weight for effective control of your diabetes. For seniors, caregivers should consider comprehensive meal planning with dieticians and nutritionists from the hospital to maintain glucose levels.
Aside from meal planning, exercise plays a big role in diabetes management. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, walking, and jogging regularly can be beneficial to one’s health. Likewise, shaping up on resistance and flexibility training does wonders for the entire system. Regular exercise can contribute to lower A1C (average blood glucose), blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
Different types of tablets are available for controlling blood glucose levels. Diabetics on oral medications still need to supplement their treatment plans with adequate exercise and proper nutrition.
Although Type 1 diabetics are dependent on insulin injections, Type 2 patients can try to avoid these by planning their meals well and sticking to their prescribed oral medications. When tablets fail to be effective, insulin injections are the next step.
Treatment plans for diabetics, especially seniors, are always about balance. Seniors have a higher predisposition to other chronic and non-chronic illnesses, and having diabetes, unfortunately, can increase the likelihood of contracting these. Think of these treatment plans as a tiered approach to managing the condition. This is why having the right kind of home care services, like care assessments, for diabetic seniors can be so crucial to their health.
The onset of diabetes itself can lead to several other health complications, including kidney disease, cardiovascular problems, blindness, and the like.
When high blood glucose is left unmanaged for a long time, diabetic patients, especially seniors, are at higher risk for kidney problems because high blood glucose content can damage filtering systems in kidneys, leading to a build-up of toxic waste in the blood. Likewise, high blood sugar can alter the lipid profile (lipids include substances like body fat) of the patient, causing the inflammation of blood vessels and clotting. Eventually, because it is harder to treat, there is a higher risk of heart failure.
Taking care of a loved one suffering from diabetes can be emotionally and physically draining. In the case of seniors, managing diabetes is often not just on its own. The condition can overlap and have a negative impact on other chronic illnesses or ailments that your loved one is suffering from. In these cases, seeking the help of a JagaPro nurse can greatly alleviate the uncertainties or concerns you may have in caring for a diabetic senior.
Medical or non-medical, the financial and emotional weight of caregiving on a full-time basis can be challenging. With our home care services, you can trust in our expertise and partner with our nurses to provide your loved one with a manageable day-to-day life.
For more information on acquiring support for loved ones, read more here.