According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), of the 14.6 million people diagnosed with diabetes, nearly 10.3 million of those people are 60 years old or older and in this age group, nearly 21% of this population has diabetes (primarily type 2).
For many who are the primary caretaker of a parent, spouse or other family member over the age of 60, there are many responsibilities that go into managing the welfare of this individual. Diabetes is a disease which has the ability to change the lifestyle of both the caretaker and the person diagnosed, and many who find themselves in this position can easily be overwhelmed if not prepared.
“We had to make some lifestyle changes in our diet which meant I had to give up things I enjoyed eating. Trying to educate my husband about what he could and couldn't eat was difficult because he’s stubborn. He still has to be reminded that he cannot skip meals because his sugars get too low and he gets dizzy,” says Alice Bock, a 57-year-old care taker from San Antonio who cares for her 68 year-old husband, who in addition to fighting prostate cancer was recently diagnosed with diabetes type 2.
Patricia Kringas, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator with The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, says that for anyone diagnosed with diabetes type 2, the first level of treatment begins with education for both the patient and caretaker.
“What’s important is that we convey to both the patient and family member how this disease was caused, we explain the risk factors, treatment options and nutrition factors that are used to manage this disease,” says Kringas.
The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center is an innovative facility, one of a handful across the country whose primary objective is to provide a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program of care for diabetics.
They also have a Diabetes Education Program designed to cover the range of topics that every diabetic and caretaker need to know like proper nutrition, medications and exercise. One of the central tenants of successful diabetic care involves having a network of caretakers for the patient beyond the primary caretaker. Most diabetic centers across the country share this key approach.