Diabetes: Dementia and Aging
Synopsis: Dementia effects people with poorly controlled diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease harder as these conditions increase risk for vascular dementia.1
Author: Thomas C. Weiss Contact: Disabled World (www.disabled-world.com)
Published: 2016-01-07 Updated: 2020-11-22
Being aware of the associated risks of diabetes is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure their loved one with diabetes and/or dementia receive proper care at all times.
The American Geriatrics Society has developed an understandable set of guidelines for improving the care of elderly loved ones with diabetes.
Whether it is confusion, forgetfulness, or difficulties with everyday tasks, when dementia becomes a part of life for your loved one - the emotional and physical toll can be great for the entire family. Dementia affects the way the brain usually functions and the onset of the condition can adversely affect a person's speech, memory and ability to successfully complete daily activities of living.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in seniors, although there are other factors. Dementia strikes people with poorly controlled diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease even harder because these conditions increase the risk for a condition called, 'vascular dementia.'
Caused by a series of small strokes that damage or destroy brain tissue and prevent oxygen from reaching the affected person's brain, vascular dementia is a serious health concern for seniors with diabetes. High blood pressure is a particularly important risk factor, so it is crucial to regularly monitor your loved one's blood pressure level. If it is too high, it is important to pursue treatment.
Due to the fact that strokes happen suddenly, symptoms of vascular dementia might develop unexpectedly or without warning, then remain constant over a period of time - then worsen quickly. People with vascular dementia might even seem to improve for short intervals, only to worsen after the occurrence of one or more strokes. It is also possible for a person to experience both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease at the same time, which may complicate matters even further.
Symptoms of Dementia
A loved one with dementia may be too embarrassed to talk about it, or simply be unaware that they have developed dementia, so it is important for family members, friends and caregivers to know the warning signs. If you observe a sudden development of any of the symptoms below, it might signal the onset of vascular dementia.
- Problems handling money
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Difficulty following instructions
- Laughing or crying inappropriately
- Moving with rapid, shuffling steps
- Confusion and short-term memory loss
- Wandering or becoming lost in familiar places
Bear in mind that frequent forgetfulness, mood swings and other behavioral changes are not an average part of the aging process. They are serious issues that may have a notable impact on the health and well-being of a person who has dementia. To ensure optimal health and quality of life, the underlying causes need to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Diabetes Care and Seniors
When a person you love has been diagnosed with diabetes, you most likely want to do everything you can to make sure your loved one experiences good health and quality of life. Yet where do you start?
How do you start?
What information should you have?
To help provide you with the answers to these questions, the American Geriatrics Society has developed an understandable set of guidelines for improving the care of elderly loved ones with diabetes. Specifically designed with the needs of seniors with diabetes in mind, the guidelines take into consideration that seniors with diabetes:
- Experience higher rates of premature death and mental and physical disability
- Are more prone to develop co-existing illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke
- Have an increased risk for several common conditions associated with the aging process, such as depression, reduced mental function, urinary incontinence, harmful falls, persistent pain and over-medication
Being aware of the associated risks of diabetes is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure their loved one with diabetes and/or dementia receive proper care at all times. Another vital component of care is customization. As the guidelines emphasize, no two people are exactly the same and each person needs a customized diabetes care plan.
What works for one person may not be the best course of treatment for another person because some people are fairly healthy and can manage their diabetes on their own, while other might have one or more complications of diabetes. Still other people may be frail, experience loss of memory and have a number of chronic diseases in addition to diabetes.
After speaking with your loved one and evaluating their medical history, a doctor will assess whether tight blood sugar control or some other approach to treatment is appropriate. Depending upon the doctor's recommendations, keep in mind the following:
- The risk of attack or stroke may be diminished with proper cholesterol and blood pressure management
- Tight blood glucose control can lower the risks of diabetes-related blindness and kidney disease caused by small blood vessel damage
Things Caregivers Can Do
Do not let dementia rob your loved one of their enjoyment for life. If you notice any of the warning signs listed above you should immediately:
- Schedule a Doctor Visit: Ask the doctor what physical and mental function tests can be performed to diagnose the possible dementia and the underlying causes.
- Follow the Doctor's Recommendations: Schedule your loved one for the appropriate diagnostic tests as well. When a diagnosis has been achieved, consult with the doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
- Learn everything you can about your loved one's daily diabetes care and help them test their blood glucose levels. Follow their meal plan and help them with medications. Poorly controlled diabetes is a serious risk factor for vascular dementia, so it is crucial that your loved one receives appropriate diabetes care.
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