Written by: Dr Teoh Wei Leng, Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist, Sunway Medical Centre
As society ages, so does the rise in chronic illnesses in our aging population. One such illness is Type 2 diabetes. Excess sugar in the body can damage blood vessels and organs and when blood sugars go unchecked, it can affect quality of life. Worse still, if the one who is suffering at the hands of diabetes is your parent. Taking care of someone with diabetes can be both challenging and rewarding at the same time.
Type 2 diabetes can be inherited but environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle also play a significant role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. The role of genetics in Type 2 diabetes is complex. For example, if one parent developed Type 2 diabetes before the age of 50, the chance of their children developing the disease is about 1 in 7. If Type 2 diabetes occurred after the age of 50, this risk falls to 1 in 13.
If one is at an increased risk of developing diabetes, changing your lifestyle could be a big step towards diabetes prevention. These are three important steps to help.
As a caregiver to an elderly parent(s), it is important to equip oneself with the correct knowledge about diabetes and its complications. Diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to complications in other body organs such as kidneys, eyes, nerves, feet, blood vessels and heart. It is highly important to ensure that every diabetes person gets regular follow-up to monitor development of any of these complications and to ensure that their diabetes is well-controlled. Regular follow-up will allow doctors to update their medications as some medications will need dose adjustments or on occasions, may need to be changed or stopped.
It is also important to highlight to patients some of the symptoms of these diabetes complications.
Being a caregiver can be hectic and exhausting. It can take an emotional toll on a person especially if the person you are caring for is your parent(s). Dealing with your emotional needs at the time rather than ignoring it is important as it can reduce stress in the long run. If the caring gets overwhelming, consider asking for help. This is best for both the caregiver and the person they are caring for.
Finally, maintain a healthy lifestyle and take time to get regular exercise and sleep. Don't hesitate to get medical attention for any health issues the caregiver is having especially if they are exacerbated or neglected due to the demands of caring for someone else.