Diabetic Care

Diabetic Care in the Nursing Home

diabetesAbout 8.3 percent of Americans suffer from diabetes (1). This number is higher as a person gets older.

About 20 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 75 years of age suffer from diabetes and its related complications. Diabetes affects about 80 percent of all people who live past the age of 80 years.

The rate of diabetes is expected to increase as the life expectancy of the population increases. It is the responsibility of the nursing facility staff members to take part in the diabetic cares of the nursing facility residents.

If the proper care and treatment is not received, an elderly person with diabetes can suffer from many different types of diabetic side effects. For this reason, it is imperative that the nursing facility staff learn about diabetes and how to care for the diabetic patient.

Issues Related to the Elderly Diabetic Resident

Diabetes is a complicated disease and there are many risks that go along with having diabetes in old age. The dangers of diabetes increase if the diabetes is not taken care of properly. Elderly people who have diabetes may have elevated rates of physical and mental disabilities related their diabetes, including the risk of dying prematurely of the disease.

Older people who have diabetes have an increased likelihood of chronic diseases, such as a stroke, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

In addition, many of the typical health issues that affect the elderly person tend to be more pronounced and prevalent in elderly patients who are diabetic. Those elderly diabetic patients suffer from an increased risk for depression, reduced cognitive function, chronic and persistent pain, painful falls and problems with urinary incontinence.

Elderly Diabetic Care in the Nursing Home

It is vital for the older diabetic patient to keep their blood glucose (sugar) levels within the acceptable ranges for diabetics. If the diabetic’s blood sugars become too high or too low, there may be significant health complications.

There is a variety of different factors involved in diabetic care in the elderly population. Staff members at nursing homes have several different areas of responsibility for the care of their patient. Some of these involve the hands-on care of the diabetic, while others are more based on the guidance of the resident.

Duties of the Nursing Facility Staff Members

Nursing home staff members may need to help diabetic residents regarding these diabetic issues:

1. The administration of diabetic medications

Should the elderly diabetic’s blood sugar become too high or too low, the staff member may have to give medication that helps bring the blood sugar levels back into the normal range. This may involve giving insulin injections and other medications designed to bring up or bring down the levels of blood sugar.

2. Nutrition of the diabetic patient

The ability of the elderly diabetic patient to keep their blood sugar levels in the normal range is partly dependent on the diet they consume. In order to control the blood sugar levels, the nursing facility staff may have the responsibility to make food choices for the diabetic resident.

It may be the responsibility of the nursing home staff to monitor how much the diabetic resident eats and to help the diabetic make food choices that comply with their diabetes that the diabetic patient also likes to eat. The major dietary goals for the elderly diabetic patient is to have them stay at a normal and healthy body weight. They must also have limitations on the amount of fat and cholesterol they take in with their diet.

3. Blood sugar monitoring

It is vital for the diabetic resident to keep their blood sugar levels in good control with stable numbers. It is up to the nursing facility staff to make use of a glucose meter to monitor the blood sugar levels of diabetic residents and to adjust the diet and medications based on the findings of the meter.

In people who have diabetes that are just controlled through diet and exercise, the blood sugar level may only have to be tested several times per week. If the diabetic patient needs to take insulin for their diabetes, the levels of blood sugar may need to be tested 2 to 4 times per day.

Improper care of the Diabetic Resident

The nursing home staff may make errors in diabetic management that result in avoidable complications in their residents. An example of this is a case where the elderly diabetic patient has difficulty in swallowing their food. In this instance, the diabetic resident may need to receive their nutrition through the taking of a syrupy, carbohydrate-containing liquid.

Giving nutrition this way has the tendency to greatly increase the elderly resident’s blood glucose levels.  In some cases, the insulin regimen of the diabetic resident is not changed to reflect this increase in blood glucose levels and there may be complications from this type of medication error.

Lawsuits Regarding Diabetic Care in the Nursing Home

The improper care of a nursing home resident who has diabetes may result in the premature death or avoidable complications in the diabetic resident.

If you believe that your loved one has died or become irrevocably harmed due to the negligence of a nursing home staff member, you should contact a lawyer who is experienced in lawsuits regarding diabetic care.

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Dr. Christine Traxler

Christine Traxler, MD is a retired family practice physician, graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1986, and freelance writer, having worked with patients in rural Minnesota for two decades. She has written several books on medical topics and currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, where she works as a freelance writer on medical topics.

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