Blood Sugar Levels and Elderly Patients

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Special Concerns in the Elderly Population

A concern with blood sugar levels and elderly people is that some of the symptoms can be overlooked or mistaken for other common changes that develop with age. For instance, the normal decrease in thirst that the elderly commonly experience could mask the symptom of increased thirst usually found in diabetes.

There are normal aging process symptoms, such as mental confusion, incontinence and changes in eyesight that may otherwise be viewed as the normal aging process, when in fact in some patients may be the presenting symptoms of diabetes. Depression is a major concern because studies have shown that elderly people who suffer from depression are 60 percent more likely to develop diabetes

The rising cost that it takes for each individual to properly maintain their blood sugar levels may be beyond the means of elderly people on a limited income, forcing them to forego some treatments or receive inadequate care.

Since the elderly are also at risk for illnesses like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there is the real possibility that they may forget to monitor their blood sugar level, take their medication or adhere to special diets that would otherwise help them to maintain their nutritional needs. The sedentary lifestyles of the elderly can also prevent them from getting the adequate exercise that a diabetic patient needs to maintain their blood sugar levels.

How can an elderly person control blood sugar levels?

The relationship between blood sugar levels and elderly people is an important topic that has been addressed by physicians and caregivers because of the affects that it has on them. There are several ways that an elderly person can control blood sugar levels, although assistance may be needed by caregivers or loved ones:

  • Providing someone to help the elderly in taking their medications ensures that they are taking their medications properly.
  • The caregiver or loved one can remind the patient to use the blood glucose meters to make sure that their blood sugar levels stay within normal range. It it also important to keep diabetes testing strips nearby in case of emergencies.
  • Monitoring the daily health of the elderly patient for symptoms that might be related with low or high blood sugar is important. Assuring that the patient gets enough of exercise recommended by their physician and within doctor’s orders.
  • Maintaining proper nutrition is important for the patient. Assistance in preparing meals may be necessary to assure that their nutritional needs are met. There are programs such as meals on wheels that may be available in the area to assist with delivery of meals to them.
  • Family members can read and understand the insurance policies in regards to diabetic care. Doing this may help them to save money as much as possible.

On A Special Note

Not all elderly people need this level of attention when it comes to their care. The level of care is best determined by a physician and on an individual basis of the elderly patient. However, the concerns with blood sugar levels and elderly people remain a great concern and should be seriously considered when an elderly patient is diagnosed with blood sugar level problems due to hyperglycemia (diabetes) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).


Elizabeth Selvin, PHD, MPH, Josef Coresh, MD, PHD and Frederick L. Brancati, MD, MHS

Brown AF, Mangione CM, Saliba D, Sarkisian CA: Guidelines for improving the care of the older individual with diabetes

mellitus. J Am Geriatr Soc 51 (Suppl.) :S265–S280, 2003

American Diabetes Association