Alzheimer’s and diabetes: Planning home care for a loved one

Caring at home for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is challenging. One needs to ensure they eat healthy, take meds on time, and quite importantly stay clear of physical injuries — all this while you navigate their behaviour changes as the disease progresses. You do all that while shouldering your own responsibilities such as career, kids, friends.

 When your loved one has Alzheimer’s and co-morbid diabetes, caregiving becomes even more demanding. Now, on top of efforts to slow progression of Alzheimer’s, you also need to help monitor their blood sugar levels, provide insulin dose if needed, and avoid complications of diabetes. It’s a colossal responsibility when you are managing the progression curves for both diseases and trying to slow both down.

We have served many clients with comorbid Alzheimer’s and diabetes and share our learnings with you in this article.
  We recommend working with a professional in home care company to make your life sustainable while providing the best care for your loved one.

Start with understanding better the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes and how complications from one can add to damage from the other. You also need to know your role in caregiving through different stages of the disease and strategies that help you manage both conditions. And how to efficiently get support from professional home care services when the responsibilities become too heavy for you to carry on alone.


Here are key considerations:.

1. How are Alzheimer’s and diabetes connected?

Research suggests a connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Although scientists aren’t sure of the exact relationship, they see a higher risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia among people with diabetes. In addition, Mayo Clinic says that many people with diabetes have brain changes similar to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.  Researchers also believe that each condition worsens the damage from the other thus accelerating mutual progression. So, you need to manage both of these conditions well to ensure a good quality of life for your loved one.

2. How to manage Alzheimer’s and diabetes together

Managing Alzheimer’s and diabetes together requires you to plan for providing ongoing support for both conditions while keeping your loved one as independent as possible. Depending on the stages of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, different approaches are needed. We recommend having a simple 5 step checklist per below and evolving this as care needs progress:
  1. Your loved one’s clarity of thoughts and articulation
  2. Their ability to carry social tasks and conduct their own activities of daily living like toileting, showering, changing clothes
  3. Monitoring needs for blood sugar levels
  4. Tracking periodic doctor appointments both Endocrinologists and Neurologists
  5. Planning compliance of medicines, food intake and daily exercises.

Early-stage Alzheimer’s

In Alzheimer’s early stages, your loved one may live quite independently. They may still do everyday activities, maintain social lives, and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. You will need to provide support and help your loved one plan for the future progression of their condition at this stage.
 Middle-stage Alzheimer’s
Changes to the brain in this stage make it hard for your loved one to clearly express thoughts, carry out everyday activities, and monitor blood sugar levels. Here, you and professional caregivers take on greater responsibility and adapt their daily routines to cope better. For example, you will need to show patience, speak slowly in a gentle tone with multiple repetitions, help with eating and grooming, monitor glucose levels, and give medications on time.
 Late-stage Alzheimer’s
In this advanced stage, your loved one may have lots of difficulty or outright inability to speak, eat, walk, and maintain personal hygiene. That means you will need to take full responsibility for their food, personal hygiene, body care, and diabetes care. These responsibilities may exceed what you can provide at home by yourself. So, you will likely need to ensure professional home care services are in place at this stage.

3. How to plan for home care

While planning for home care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and diabetes, you need to focus on reducing challenges, creating a safe environment, and keeping blood sugar levels under control. A good plan will include regular glucose levels monitoring, healthy eating, adequate exercise, and practices to reduce common infections like pneumonia.

 How to monitor blood sugar levels

Alzheimer’s makes it difficult for your loved one to regularly monitor their blood sugar levels, especially in the later stages. In the early stages, you may use reminders and alarms to help them remember to check their levels. However, in the middle and late stages, your loved one may lose the ability to remember and perform these tests. You will need to perform these checks to monitor and manage diabetes – these days, there are lots of options available for connected glucometers and continuous glucose monitoring, for example Abbott’s Ambulatory Glucose Profiling (AGP) sensors that can be handy and easy to use. Remember to label devices and drugs.

 How to plan healthy eating

A healthy eating plan will be crucial in managing both conditions and preventing complications. Because Alzheimer’s affects your loved one’s memory and decision-making, they may forget to eat, eat too little or too much, and not recognize common food. So, plan to keep healthy food such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy snacks. As with drugs, label everything. You also need to have drinking water around and encourage your loved one to drink plenty of it.

 How to provide physical activity

Physical activities are as important in managing both of the conditions as a healthy diet. You will need to provide an environment and motivate your loved one to walk more, practice yoga, work out with resistance bands, and take stairs.

 How to reduce risk of fall injury

One of the major challenges with Alzheimer’s is physical injury. You need to carefully plan for design changes in your home, bathroom, bedroom to prevent falls, accidental injury from harmful objects, and extreme room and water temperatures.

 How to manage complications

Diabetes, if left unchecked, may cause blurry vision, slow to heal sores, and kidney diseases. In addition, your loved one, who also has Alzheimer’s, may not be able to express how they feel. So, you need to keep an eye out for these symptoms to avoid complications.


4. How to know when you need a expert in home care provider?

Typically, during the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s, the increasing responsibilities of providing care for your loved one (who also has diabetes) become overwhelming and call for comprehensive professional caregiving help from reputed home care companies like ours. When planned for carefully, correctly and efficiently, they can be a massive aid to help you deal with your loved one’s growing dependence, and exponentially increasing care needs and resulting challenges.
 
Do you live in Dallas Fort Worth area? 

Care Mountain provides award-winning in-home care for people with Alzheimer’s and diabetes. We are a 5-star rated home health care provider with 16 years of experience providing personalized care for more than 3,000 DFW families. Give us a call to discuss your needs. 

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