According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans. When coupled with other age-related health changes, diabetes can be particularly devastating for adults over the age of 65 and puts them at greater risk for stroke and cardiovascular diseases. According to two studies published in Diabetes Care and the Journal of the American Medical Association, diabetes can also be linked to a higher risk of dementia.
How the Brain Uses Glucose
The brain needs glucose for energy. When a person’s blood sugar drops too low, a condition known as hypoglycemia, he or she may experience confusion, headaches, dizziness, and other neurological symptoms. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the studies believe repeated severe episodes of hypoglycemia can cause neuronal damage that leads to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional home care. Orlando families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.
How Hypoglycemia Affects Cognition
Individuals with diabetes have difficulty producing and regulating their insulin levels. Without proper management, diabetics may experience erratic fluctuations in their blood sugar, including episodes of severe hypoglycemia. Researchers found that seniors who experienced hypoglycemic episodes requiring hospitalization were twice as likely to show signs of dementia over the next 12 years. The studies also found that hypoglycemia and dementia essentially worked together in a vicious cycle. The hypoglycemic episodes caused cognitive impairment, which made it more difficult for the individual to manage diabetes properly. Over time, the hypoglycemic episodes contributed to cognitive decline in the form of dementia, which increased the likelihood of poor blood sugar control and further episodes of low blood sugar.
If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of home care families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
What Caregivers Can Do
Make sure your loved one stays on top of his or her diabetes treatment regimen. This may involve overseeing your loved one’s medications and testing his or her blood sugar levels as prescribed by the physician. Your loved one should have his or her hemoglobin A1C checked so the doctor can determine if the treatment regimen is working appropriately. Since diabetes puts your loved one at greater risk for cognitive decline, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the early warning signs of dementia, including:
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Difficulty finding the right words when speaking or writing
- Disorientation as to time and place
- Poor judgment and difficulty with abstract thinking
- Changes in mood and uncharacteristic behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Short-term memory loss
If your loved one displays any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult the doctor to determine if they’re the result of dementia or normal aging. While there’s no cure for dementia, medications and other therapies are available to slow the progression of the disease and enhance cognitive performance.
Dementia can be challenging for seniors to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional dementia care. Orlando seniors can benefit greatly from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program designed to promote cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. CTM is included at no additional charge with any of the in-home care plans provided by Home Care Assistance. To speak with one of our qualified Care Managers and schedule a complimentary in-home consultation, call (407) 232-7155 today.