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Assisted Living for Seniors with Diabetes

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Assisted Living for Diabetics & Seniors with DiabetesAssisted living communities offer seniors a way to live their lives as independently as possible with support when they need it the most. Seniors who live in assisted living communities are also able to travel or have visitors while their own needs are being met by the caregivers at the facility. Meals, bathing assistance, and even help with oral medication are also provided for seniors during their stay. Depending on the location, there may even be nurses on hand to provide assistance with short term medical needs.

While the amenities and services for seniors provided by an assisted living home may be diverse, diabetes management is a level of care that can become complicated. Many seniors living in assisted living homes have diabetes, and it is managed, but there are some guidelines regarding care for diabetic seniors living in such facilities.

Assisted Living Care & Managing a Senior’s Diabetes

For the health care industry, managing diabetes in seniors has morphed into a major challenge. Diabetes is difficult for people of all ages; however, it is especially harmful in seniors. There are many components involved in the management of diabetes such as meal preparation, daily physical activity programs, sugar level tracking and the administration of medication. With so many important tasks, it can be difficult to manage them all alone.

Seniors naturally face unique challenges as they age. It becomes harder to move around for some, and for others, memory conditions may also be a concern. Most families are able to assist with diabetic management in the early stages, but for some seniors, an assisted living home is a much healthier option.

Assisted living communities are able to provide diabetic seniors with dedicated health and wellness programs aimed at help manage their condition. Some locations may even offer a dedicated team of staff members who have diabetes management experience. While most locations will not allow caregivers to inject insulin, skilled travel nurses or on-site diabetic care nurses are able to help with senior diabetic care medication management.

Can Assisted Living Facilities Provide Insulin Shots?

Assisted living communities are not skilled nursing care centers. As a result, they are limited in the type and level of healthcare services they are able to offer residents. The main reason that care for a diabetic senior is complicated is that assisted living staff members and caregivers are not authorized to perform insulin injections. In fact, assisted living caregivers are no able to administer any form of medication. The staff is tasked with reminding seniors to take their medications or help them to take them, such as if a senior suffers from coordination or mobility issues.

Care Options for Diabetic Seniors in Assisted Living Homes

Due to caregivers not being able to administer insulin injections to seniors in assisted living communities, many families may find themselves in a difficult spot. Seniors who are considering transitioning to an assisted living facility that is in need of insulin and blood sugar management will need to consider alternatives.

Depending on the location, some facilities may refuse to allow a senior with diabetes to enroll. Those that develop diabetes may be asked to move to a facility that offers a higher level of skilled care such as a nursing home. One viable option is for families to hire a private nurse to manage their diabetic care while residing in an assisted living home. This form of care is qualified as skilled nursing care, which means it may be covered by Medicare or Medicaid. There are many home health care aides that will visit local assisted living communities to provide specialist nursing care on an as-needed basis.

Diabetes Management Nurses & Assisted Living

Skilled nurses that provide care for seniors living in an assisted living community tend to work on an as-needed basis. Diabetes management nurses charge per visit as opposed to an hourly rate. This helps seniors and their families to better manage their expenses and plan their monthly assisted costs.

Diabetes management nurses typically spend 15- 30 minutes with a senior during each visit. Their goal is not to be a total health aide, but rather to manage a few specific nursing tasks that relate to a senior's diabetic care. For a diabetes management nurse, these tasks are usually checking sugar levels, pushing insulin injections, checking IVs & wounds, and managing a senior's diabetic medication. Depending on the specific needs of the patient, a diabetes management nurse may visit as often as four times a day or as little as once a day. Typically, a nurse will schedule their visits to coincide with the end of meal times each day.

Can A Nurse Diabetes Educator Help A Senior in Assisted Living?

A nurse diabetes educator is an individual who deals with diabetic patients, including seniors. The nurse diabetes educator teaches diabetes seniors how to care for themselves; modify dietary intake, foot care, how to administer insulin and monitor blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Other routine duties include doing physical examinations, explaining available treatment options, and checking vital signs. A nurse diabetes educator will also have expert knowledge of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia management techniques.

A nurse diabetes educator with work closely with caregivers at assisted living facilities, as well as doctors and with the seniors that have diabetes, or pre-diabetes to:

  • Identify the self-management goals of the patient
  • Document all educational sessions
  • Educate and intervene when behaviors prevent self-management
  • Assess patient’s diabetic education needs

You can find a nurse diabetes educator in many different health-related settings. In most cases, they are found in organizations that are recognized for accredited diabetes education programs or services. Accreditation means that the facility or service met the requirements set forth by Medicare and Medicaid services.

Nurse diabetes educators are also required to maintain their status and participate in continuing education to ensure that they are always up to date on treatments and self-management techniques related to diabetes maintenance. This is good to note for seniors because the techniques they teach to manage their condition will always be the most up to date and rely on more than just insulin alone.

On-Site Care for Diabetic Seniors in Assisted Living

Some diabetes management nurses or private home care companies will partner with assisted living communities that house several diabetic residents. Instead of a single nurse visiting the facility several times a day for one resident, there may be a dedicated nurse or team on-site. This will allow more seniors to get the help they need on demand.

Another advantage is that when private home care agencies or diabetes management nurses are always on-site in an assisted living facility, new potential residents will have fewer fears regarding their disease management. Seniors who develop diabetes later in life, but after they have already transitioned to assisted living, will also be able to stay in their current community.

Many seniors have a hard to move from a private home into a senior living setting. Those who are faced with the need for skilled nursing care may have a tougher time accepting a move to a nursing home facility. On-site diabetes management nurses allow such seniors to have the peace of mind that they can age in place at their current assisted living home without giving up more of their independence.

Unique Challenges Faced by Seniors with Diabetes

People who suffer from diabetes face many challenges, but seniors have a unique set of challenges to overcome. Any diabetic patient, even seniors, are able to control their diabetes with the proper tools. These tools are a mix of education regarding diabetes, changes to one’s lifestyle, and of course, medication management. When all of these challenges are faced and controlled, the quality of life of the person suffering from diabetes will greatly improve. Assisted living facilities, paired with diabetic nurses and private home caregivers, work closely with seniors to help manage their condition.

Medication management and administration is a big concern for many seniors. Seniors may find it difficult to keep up with testing their own sugar levels or taking their own insulin shots. Older people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia and who reside in memory care units in assisted living may have trouble remembering to take their medication or even which foods to avoid.

Exercise can be difficult the older a person gets. With age, a general decline in mobility is common. Seniors who suffer from diabetes are especially vulnerable due to their inability to get the proper amount of physical exercise they need to manage their condition.

Diabetic diets are not overly complex, but they do take time and planning. For seniors, changing their eating habits and creating nutritious meals that meet their needs can be very difficult. In some cases, diabetic food is can be costlier than traditional choices for those on a limited budget.

Assisted Living Solutions for Seniors with Diabetes

Senior diabetes care and diabetes management is an intrinsic part of assisted living services. Seniors are able to get help managing their condition through education, prepared meals, planned physical activity and more. Many locations for diabetic seniors will offer programs tailored to their specific needs as well as personalized attention from highly trained caregivers.

Assisted living communities are more than just places where seniors go to live out their silver years. Assisted living homes for diabetics intend to work with families so that seniors with diabetes can live healthier, happier lives.

What Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Assisted Living Home for Diabetic Seniors

Choosing an assisted living community should be done after careful research and consideration. While most long-term care facilities such as assisted living homes offer similar amenities, it is important to choose one that meets the specific needs of the senior. There are homes that cater to seniors with memory care concerns, those with mobility issues, and of course, those that need help with diabetes management.

It is important to understand which diabetic services are available for seniors in the assisted living home you are considering. Not every assisted living facility offers comprehensive diabetic care, and some also don’t allow an independent skilled nurse to provide care for their residents.

Make sure to ask the facility about their medication management ceilings and their rules regarding independent skilled nursing care. Some locations may decline admittance to seniors who have complex care needs, or those who require their own skilled nurse to visit the home. Other locations may offer an arrangement with a nearby home care aid company through which their diabetic medication management can be arranged. Knowing in advance what a facility allows or restricts will ensure that you or your loved one get the diabetic care they need.

Ask about diabetes control rules. While some locations will work with seniors to get their disease under control, other locations may require the condition to be stable in order to gain admission. Most seniors who have been living with diabetes for several years will have a stable, predictable and managed condition. Seniors who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes may have very low or very high glucose levels which indicate that their condition is not yet under control. Uncontrolled diabetes can pose a significant health risk and many assisted living facilities won’t accept high-risk residents.

It is also important to ask the facility about foot care. While this sounds strange, it is actually extremely important. A certain percentage of all people who suffer from diabetes will develop a non-healing foot ulcer. If left untreated, these wounds can lead to infection, amputation, and in serious cases, death. Diabetic seniors are more prone to foot complications due to their age and other health issues. Some assisted living communities will offer regular foot checks and foot care, while others may require seniors to arrange their own foot care.

Food Options for Diabetic Seniors

Assisted living communities have evolved to offer a wide range of culinary options to fit the taste and needs of residents from all over the world. Regardless of location, each assisted living home must offer a balanced diet that is in line with government guidelines. Even if a facility is not geared towards diabetic seniors, diabetic and sugar-free food options must be on the menu. While just the basics are enough to survive, look for a facility that offers a wide selection of healthy options for diabetic seniors. Just because you have to eat healthy, doesn’t mean it has to be bland or repetitive. No matter which location you choose, make sure that the options available fit the dietary and health needs of the senior.

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