senior couple eating vegatables

Posted: August 27, 2020

Health & Wellness

Nutrition Management of Diabetes in the Older Adult

Diabetes is on the rise in the United States, and adults 60 years and older are no exception to this data. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 4 Americans over 60 years of age has diabetes. Additionally, physiological and cognitive changes of aging put this population at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

While many approaches to treating and managing diabetes expand across all age groups, certain considerations must be made for the older adult. One must factor in the functional, cognitive, and physiological changes that can accompany aging.

In older adults with diabetes, the primary goal is to prevent episodes of hypoglycemia while also preventing complications of hyperglycemia. Low blood sugars can be the cause of falls, which can lead to decreased mobility, decreased quality of life, and even mortality. Therefore, fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c (a measurement of average blood sugar over 2-3 months) goals can be relaxed and a well-balanced diet with focus on timing of meals and consistent carbohydrate intake should be emphasized.

Monitoring Blood Sugars

It is important to also monitor for excessively elevated blood sugars, which can contribute to symptoms of dementia and cause other complications. Close monitoring of blood pressure, cholesterol and lipids, kidney function, mouth and skin condition should also be provided to prevent these complications.

Intentional weight loss is often recommended for individuals with diabetes but is not encouraged in seniors as it can worsen sarcopenia (muscle wasting associated with aging), bone mineral density and even contribute to nutrient deficiencies.

As people age, thirst and hunger cues can be decreased. In addition, taste changes related to age and medications can alter desire to eat or satisfaction at meal times. It is important to provide cuing for meals and snacks if necessary.

The Right Level of Support

As we naturally age, daily tasks like cooking and housekeeping may create a barrier to maintaining a healthy diet and monitoring blood sugar levels. People caring for older adults should be able to recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which can closely mimic other conditions in elderly individuals such as tiredness, confusion, irritability, paleness and excessive sweating. Individuals who are not able to communicate these symptoms are at an especially higher risk.

At Demaree Crossing, we seek to bridge that gap by offering expert care to support your loved one in our Assisted Living or Memory Care neighborhoods. Our personalized approach to care encourages the highest level of independence possible while providing the right level of support.

Individualized Approach to Diet

Research has shown that in seniors, the type of carbohydrate intake is less important than the consistency of intake. It is important to provide a steady stream of carbohydrates, which is converted to sugar once digested, to maintain blood sugar levels. Carbohydrate foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and dairy should be divided up evenly throughout the day.

Individualization is of special importance when working with older adults and one should always consider an individual’s culture, food preferences, support system, and lifelong dietary habits when building a meal plan to promote adherence and sustainability. At Demaree Crossing, Our Duet Dining program works in harmony with residents to create a customized, one-of-a-kind program that elevates the dining experience. Residents in our community enjoy a monthly Teaching Kitchen, a hands-on experience to explore food and increase culinary and nutritional literacy. This positively impacts resident food choices and promotes good health.

In summary, managing diabetes through diet in older adults requires the right level of support and an individualized approach to diet. Read more about our signature programs including our Rhythms Dementia services.

Contact us with questions or to schedule a live virtual tour today.

A Neighborhood of Cappella Living Solutions