Updated: Jan 22, 2020
Safe Aging of the Ozarks has had a fruitful yet hectic month in December. Issues were brought to light that we had yet to experience in our year and a half of operation. A couple such incidents involved blood sugar issues. The elderly often suffers from blood sugar related issues for a variety of different reasons making the maintenance of their condition as unique as they are. Managing proper blood sugar levels is an operation the body can normally do on its own, but some do not and therefore need to be
monitored regularly and sometimes forced to comply with medications. Blood sugar can go too high (Hyperglycemia) or too low (Hypoglycemia).
Hyperglycemia according to the American Diabetes Association, often has a diabetes type 1 or type 2 diagnosis attached to it. Hyperglycemia can be a medical emergency that can evolve into ketoacidosis or diabetic coma, which is life threatening. Symptoms include sweet smelling breath, excessive thirst, and frequent urination. When blood sugar
is too high, the body struggles to produce enough insulin to break down the glucose. When the body cannot use glucose, it resorts to the stored fat reserve. The fat reserve produces ketones when broken down which the body does not tolerate large amounts of, so attempts to flush it out through the urine. Hyperglycemia can be managed through medications such as insulin injections, diet, exercise, and close open relationship with the individual’s physician.
Hypoglycemia according to Medical News Today’s Yvette Brazier, is when the blood sugar or glucose levels drop too low, usually signifying an existing health concern. Hypoglycemia has been the battle in this business recently. Trembling, dizziness, fainting, confusion, nausea, and sweating are some of the symptoms of low blood sugar. A reason for low blood sugar can be diabetes that has not been managed appropriately. Insulin can drop glucose too low in improper amounts. Illness and neglecting to eat have been the major concerns with some of the clients lately. When a client has dementia, proper nutrition can become challenging. They forget to eat or may tell you they already have when they haven’t. Blood work from doctor’s visits will reflect something is missing and frequent falls are a common indicator there is more going on. I encourage the caregivers of my clients to not ask if their loved one is hungry but to simply offer prepared food to them or place snacks in their reach. They will often pick at the snacks or food if nothing else. That will at least get the glucose in the blood stable. If lack of food is not the problem and when a snack doesn’t raise blood sugar, then there could be an infection or illness. It would be time to seek medical treatment or consultation.
If blood sugar levels are challenging for you or your loved ones, I strongly encourage a conversation with your physician. Falls are a huge concern with blood sugar levels and one wrong fall with a senior citizen can permanently change their life and the lives of their loved ones up to and including death. Checking your blood sugar often is very important to monitor health and safety. Discuss with a doctor what foods and physical activity could aid in managing blood sugar as well as if insulin will be needed when diet and exercise do not seem to work. Once on insulin it becomes that much more important to check sugars often to verify the effectiveness of the insulin dosage prescribed.