AgingMatters from LeadingAge NJ

6 Challenges of Aging With Diabetes

Another in LeadingAge New Jersey's series of ideas worth sharing

6 Challenges of Aging With Diabetes
About one in four Americans over the age of 60 have diabetes. Managing the disease can become more difficult as people enter their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Here's what experts have to say about the challenges of aging and what you can do to overcome them:


Honest Sharing

Two of the most important things aging people can do is admit that they need help and ask for it, says Barbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP, professor of gerontology and Sonya Ziporkin Gershowitz chair of gerontology at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. "A lot of people don't want to admit they are not checking their glucose levels," she says. "If you cannot adhere to your self-care regimen, be honest. Talk to your provider about it so you can work out a system that's realistic for you."

It's also important to let health care providers know about any changes your body is going through, no matter how small, says Andrew Goldberg, MD, who heads the Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health-funded Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center. "For example, tell your doctor if you are feeling weak or fatigued or light-headed." Even the smallest change may be important to note for the health of a person with diabetes. "Pay attention to your body. When it doesn't seem right, ask about it," he says.


Read on for six common challenges of aging to discuss with your health care provider:


1. Vision Problems

More than 28 percent of adults over the age of 40 living with diabetes experience diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the small blood vessels in the retina that can result in loss of vision. As people age, vision can deteriorate even further, especially if blood glucose levels are uncontrolled. Cataracts, common in people with diabetes, can also contribute to poor vision.

Failing vision makes it more difficult to read the directions on medication, to see blood glucose numbers on a meter, and even to walk down stairs without falling, especially if reflexes have also slowed, Goldberg says.