Dementia and diabetes

Dementia can be a very frightening and lonely place not only for the person diagnosed but for the family or carer, too. If someone has previously been independent with their diabetes management it can be challenging to allow someone else to take over but it can also be challenging to take over. 

Take a look at some factors to consider if someone has dementia and diabetes: 

Family and carers 

If someone has dementia, family members, friends or carers may have to help with diabetes control. They may not have much experience of managing diabetes and they may be anxious about taking responsibility. 

The diabetes team at the surgery or hospital will be able to work with family and carers to make sure they learn the skills needed to help manage diabetes. This may be a stressful time with ups and downs, so carers and family will need to learn to manage high and low glucose levels and know what to do in an emergency. 

Relaxing targets 

If someone has dementia, the targets of diabetes control can probably be relaxed. Someone with dementia may already be confused or less able to communicate how they’re feeling, so it may be more difficult to detect the symptoms of hypoglycaemia. Relaxing the targets reduces the risk of glucose levels dropping. 

It may also be worth considering simplifying the regime of glucose testing and frequency of insulin injections, especially if this causes significant distress. 

Foot care 

It’s extremely important to remember foot care. As people become more frail there is a much higher risk that skin will break, so it is really important for someone to check the feet of a person with diabetes and that appropriate footwear is worn to protect against ulceration. 

If a family member has concerns about someone’s ability to cope at home or self-manage their diabetes then they should seek professional help from the GP or diabetes team. It is often easier for a medical professional to be involved in these conversations as they can start to formulate a plan to provide some help. 

There are some other things you can try if you have or  you know someone who has dementia and diabetes: 

  • keep a diary to tick off when insulin has been given or ask for one of the pens that can record this for you 
  • set alarms to remind you when insulin is due 
  • take insulin after a meal in case you’re not sure you are going to complete a meal 
  • have a written care plan so carers and family members know exactly what to do 
  • make sure a diabetes bracelet is worn 
  • take the long acting insulin in the morning so maybe a nurse or carer can come in and give it 

💡 Remember though that in someone with type 1 diabetes the insulin must not be stopped altogether. 

Go to ‘Getting older with diabetes’ to return to the main topic page, or choose another section.

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