Just under 26 percent of seniors age 65 or older are living with diabetes, according to statistics from the American Diabetes Association. Moreover, while we have long known that the disease can threaten health and wellness, recent research from Australia published in the journal Diabetologia suggests that the consequences of diabetes may be even more dire than once thought. Let's take a closer look at the findings, along with how caregivers can do their part to improve the lives of patients with diabetes.
Diabetes and Life Expectancy
According to the study, people with diabetes not only have shorter life expectancies than their healthier counterparts, but they are also more likely to suffer quality of life setbacks throughout the remaining years they do have.
Specifically, men and women at age 50 experience an estimated loss of life of 3.2 and 3.1 years, respectively. The numbers grow even more grim when you factor in "disability-free life expectancy," which includes both mortality levels and disability. Compared to a life expectancy of an additional 30.2 and 33.9 years for healthy men and women, respectively, the estimates were just 12.7 and 13.1 for people with the disease.
The takeaway, according to the paper's authors? "The stunning loss of disability-free life expectancy in diabetes reported in this study is likely to raise concern about the burden of diabetes in future decades, indicating a need to respond by implementing intervention and prevention of disability."
The Role of Caregivers in Diabetes-Related Disability Intervention
The paper highlights several contributors associated with declines disability-free life expectancy rates, including amputation, mobility problems, and blood vessel issues. Health experts agree that the best way to avoid these and other diabetes-related complications is through prevention interventions, such as weight management, a healthy diet, exercise, and medications -- all of which can delay or halt the development of diabetes.
The good news? Earlier research published in the Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences shows that interventions can yield meaningful developments in slowing diabetes complications, including neuropathy, cardiomyopathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy.
Also of particular note, according to researchers? The more that patients can self-manage the disease, the better their outcomes will be.
There's no denying that diabetes is a serious condition and that seniors are vulnerable both to illness and its complications. Caregivers who understand the risks, encourage self-care and take proactive preventive action are well-positioned to help seniors mitigate the many risks of living with diabetes.
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