The reactions to diabetes is varied. Some think it’s not a big deal, while others consider it to be a lifelong sentence of medication and poor health. The following tips can make caring for a senior with diabetes a little easier and improve their health.
1. Don’t change everything at once.
Take it step by step, day by day. The way a senior feels on the day they’ve learned they have diabetes, versus a week, or a month later, can be very different. Ask a newly diagnosed senior how they feel, talk them through their feelings and help them to make decisions on what they can change, bit by bit, to adjust to being a diabetic.
2. Make the changes together.
Beyond making decisions together, it will help the senior of you make changes together too. A senior going through all the changes that aging brings can easily make them feel isolated. Cooking with the senior, and eating with them too, with recipes specifically designed for someone with diabetes, can help the senior to feel like there’s someone who’s not just helping, but actually going through the diabetes with them too.
3. Set some goals.
Setting small, short-term goals helps to make small changes part of daily life. Small things like taking a walk after a meal are very effective in managing diabetes. However, for seniors who have never walked after a meal, suddenly walking every day will be too much too soon. Begin by walking after a meal a couple of times a week, then increase the frequency.
4. Consider mental health.
Just because diabetes is a physical illness, that does not mean it won’t affect a senior’s mental state. There’s the initial shock of diagnosis and then learning to live with the fact that they have diabetes. It can be a lot to process, and for some, a heavy load to bear. Depression can occur, and seniors can experience emotional “burnout” from implementing numerous changes in their life. When it comes to change and mental health, the goal is to help the senior to experience success as they make incremental changes.
5. Think of yourself!
When caring for a senior with diabetes, the caregiver needs to think of themselves. This may seem incongruous, but it is actually an essential step. Caring for a person who is compromised is a demanding position, and one that can cause great stress. It is important to acknowledge this and then address it. Some caregivers may want to seek a support group, or talk to a friend or colleague who has gone down the same experience. Some may take up knitting or meditation to reduce stress. The important thing is not to swallow stress, because then the caregiver risks becoming ill.