Last week we talked about what diabetes is and the symptoms you should look out for if you’re a caregiver.
In today’s post, I will be going over diabetes complications you should know about as you provide care to your loved ones.
Because diabetes can go undetected for years, there are complications of the condition can develop because of late detection.
It is however important to watch for complications because diabetes complications can be disabling and even fatal.
The good news however, is that diabetes complications can be avoided with the right care and good control.
Diabetes complications you should know about
Hypoglycemia simply means “low sugar”.
It happens if a diabetic patient has not had enough to eat or receives much more insulin that they need.
The sugar available to the person’s cells becomes low and they begin to show the following symptoms, with the most severe symptoms at the bottom of the list.
- An irregular heartbeat
- Complaints of tiredness/fatigue
- Clumsy movements (almost like they are drunk)
- Slurred words
- Tingling sensation around the mouth
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
On the other hand, a diabetic patient can struggle with “too much” sugar in their blood.
Hyperglycemia happens when there is not enough insulin to allow sugar to enter into a person’s cells.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weakness and tiredness
- Blurred vision
It is important as a caregiver that you know when to give your loved one insulin and how much.
Too much can tank their blood sugar whereas too little causes as elevation in their blood sugar than can be dangerous.
Wounds that don’t heal
Never ignore wounds on your elderly loved one that don’t seem to go away.
In a healthy individual, you should begin to see signs of wound healing a day or two after the fact.
Therefore, if a week after a person has sustained an injury, there are no signs of the wound healing, it is very important that you report the situation to a doctor so measures can be taken immediately.
If you don’t do this, a wound that could have been taken care of in its’ earlier stages can continue to get worse until an amputation of a body part is needed to prevent the wound from spreading.
Neuropathy is when diabetes has cause damage to a person’s nerves so they cannot feel their certain parts of their bodies especially their feet or fingers.
This condition and the tendency for wounds not to heal in diabetic patients are a terrible combination.
They can lead to amputations if immediate care is not given.
Because a person with neuropathy cannot feel their feet or fingers, they could sustain an injury and not realize it until it gets bad.
Thus as a caregiver, it is important to inspect your loved one’s skin to make sure it is all intact.
And it is important that you report any wounds that don’t heal after a week or two immediately.
As I mentioned above, nerve damage is a complication of diabetes that can affect different parts of the body.
When the nerves of the eyes become damaged, it leads to glaucoma- a severe eye condition that causes vision loss and in severe instances, blindness.
Diabetes is a common cause for kidney disease.
High blood sugar damages the blood vessels that lead to many organs.
The kidneys are the organs in the body that filter fluids and allow your body to create urine.
When your body creates urine, it “cleans” the blood. Without this cleaning mechanism, toxic substances will accumulate in the body.
A failure to properly control diabetes can lead to damaging the blood vessels that lead to the kidney and thus causing the kidneys to fail.
This is called diabetic nephropathy.
If your elderly loved one has diabetes, it is important to have their kidney function screened regularly.
According to the American Heart Association, 68% of people with diabetes over the age of 65 years die of heart disease while 16% of them die from a stroke related to diabetes.
There are many factors that intertwine with diabetes to give this abysmal outlook. These include smoking, unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity.
Preventing diabetes complications
Diabetes complications can be kept at bay to a large extent.
Thus as a caregiver, the best you can do is to encourage these preventative measure.
- Engage in physical activity for 30 minutes at least 3-4 times per week.
- Lose weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet that emphasizes vegetables and lean proteins.
- Blood sugar levels should be checked during the cause of the day to prevent dangerously low or high sugar levels.
- The right amount of insulin has to be administered at the right time.
- Talk to your doctor regularly about any changes you are feeling in your body so they can help diagnose and treat the condition before it gets worse.
Why your HbA1C levels are important
One major way to keep diabetes complications at bay is to have a doctor check hemoglobin A1C levels.
This is an even stronger measure of a person’s blood sugar that looks at a profile over a period of 8-12 weeks.
Hemoglobin A1C levels give doctors a much better look at a person’s overall trajectory with diabetes.
Getting this checked regularly is a smart idea.
Now you know!
As a caregiver, you are now equipped with knowledge to help your elderly loved one with diabetes.
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