Older adults who have poorly treated diabetes face many challenges and barriers to effective treatment. Low self-motivation, a lack of self-confidence, or a lack of family support or emotional support can quickly result in poorly treated or untreated diabetes in a senior.
Seniors May Find it Hard to Get Motivated to Control Diabetes
Even a senior who is actively involved in developing a plan and working toward goals may find it difficult to stay motivated to make major consistent changes in a lifestyle that has been established for many years. According to the presentation “Overcoming Barriers to Diabetes Control for Older Adults” by Linda Pearce, RN, more than half of people with type II (adult onset) diabetes have no symptoms. Reducing annoying symptoms is often a major motivating force that is absent in controlling diabetes in older adults.
Checking and treating blood sugar levels may not have any noticeable immediate effect on day-to-day health. For example, high blood sugar levels may not be obvious but medications to treat it might have unpleasant side effects for some seniors. Performing frequent finger sticks and administering insulin injections may be painful and require extra effort if traveling.
The older adult may not realize the severity of possible complications until the effects are irreversible. According to the above presentation, it takes eight to nine years of tight control of blood sugars to lower certain diabetes complications. Financial concerns can also lead to a lack of motivation to adequately treat diabetes.
Low Self-confidence May Hinder Effective Diabetes Treatment in Older Adults
Being diagnosed with diabetes can be quite distressing. Many seniors may live with undiagnosed diabetes for years and only realize that they have diabetes after they have suffered multiple complications of the chronic health condition. They may have become sick due to the diabetes or may discover the diabetes by accident while receiving treatment for another illness or injury.
Seniors may feel ill-equipped to manage a complicated life-long chronic illness, which can quickly lead to low self-confidence, resulting in less effective home care. An elder may feel overwhelmed by a diabetes diagnosis and have multiple concerns that may stifle her ability to become actively involved in care. He may feel bombarded with new information that is difficult to comprehend. She may understand everything when going over the information in the office, but questions may arise after getting home, or she may forget parts of the conversation.
f educational resources reinforcing teaching are inadequate or hard to understand, he may decide to do nothing for fear of making a mistake. Seniors with other chronic health conditions may find it even more difficult to access needed services related to diabetes treatment.
Lack of Support May Lead to Inadequate Diabetes Treatment in Seniors
After being diagnosed with diabetes, the elder may focus on only one aspect of self-care, such as diet or exercise or blood sugar testing and treatment. Changes in one aspect of care may be significant, but the senior may feel discouraged if a healthcare provider or family member seems to only focus on what he has not changed.
A lack of support by the elder’s family and/or support system may lead to frustration and apathy. For example, if family members are eating foods that are high in carbohydrates, the senior may find it more difficult to maintain recommended dietary changes and finally take on the attitude of “why bother.”
Motivation, Confidence, and Support May Improve Diabetes Treatment in Seniors
Although diabetes can be difficult to manage and often requires major changes in lifestyle, older adults may find that they have better results managing diabetes if they can anticipate barriers and deal with them. Finding new sources of motivation, looking for ways to boost self-confidence, and discovering others who can provide needed support may help a senior to more effectively treat diabetes, which may lead to a better quality of life and increased independence in the future.