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Taking care of Diabetic residents: Tips and advice for care home staff

It is estimated that up to 27% of residents in UK care homes have diabetes. Shockingly, it is predicted that 8 million people in the UK aged 85 and over will have diabetes by 2050.


Diabetes is a chronic disease that can cause many serious complications, such as nerve damage, kidney failure and vision problems that are capable of leading to blindness. A care home resident with diabetes has an increased likelihood of frailty and multiple co-morbidities. It is therefore vital that the staff in your care are fully educated on diabetes and can provide diabetic patients with everything they need. Care homes should aim to raise the quality of life for every resident, and residents with Diabetes should be provided with the highest standard of care possible.


If your care home contains residents with Diabetes, here are some tips to ensure your care home provides an exceptional level of care.


1.    Provide Diabetic residents with high-fibre slow-release carbs  

Carbohydrates have more of an impact on blood sugar levels than fats and proteins, so you need to be careful about which carbohydrates you prepare for meals. Fibre’s ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels is a great way to improve heart health. Foods high in fibre include cereals and bread made from whole grains. Instead of preparing white potatoes, choose sweet potatoes or cauliflower mash for your residents. Instead of serving white rice, serve brown or wild rice, or riced cauliflower.


2.    Encourage gentle exercise


Being diagnosed with Diabetes doesn’t mean being sentenced to a sedentary lifestyle. For people with Diabetes, exercise becomes that much more important. Being active can provide huge health benefits to patients with Diabetes. Exercise can help to increase the amount of glucose used by muscles for energy and lower blood sugar levels. It can also help the body to use insulin more efficiently and strengthen the bones.


You should encourage gentle exercise for elderly patients, such as frequent walks and fun activities.


If you would like some guidance on some activities and games you can introduce to residents, you can read our blog on senior activities here.


3.    Become an expert at spotting hidden sugar in foods

Although manufacturers are required to provide the total amount of sugar in a serving, they are not required to write how much of this sugar has been added and how much is naturally in the food. The trick is deciphering which ingredients in the product are added sugars. It is common for sugars to appear as the following ingredients:


  • Agave nectar
  • Cane crystals
  • Corn sweetener
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • High-fructose corn syrup


A wise approach is to avoid products that contain these ingredients and ensure you are educated on how to spot any added sugars.



4.    Reduce the number of soft drinks, soda and juice drinks you serve


Instead of serving fizzy drinks with meals, prepare sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime for your diabetic residents. A recent study in the journal “Diabetes Care” found that people who drank 16 ounces or less of water a day (two cups’ worth) were 30 percent more likely to have high blood sugar than those who drank more than that daily. The connection seems to be due to a hormone called vasopressin, which helps the body regulate hydration. Vasopressin levels increase when a person is dehydrated, which prompts the liver to produce more blood sugar. Therefore, it is highly important to ensure your residents consume a large amount of water on a daily basis.


5.    Ensure your staff are provided with specialised Diabetes Training


Fiona Kirkland, a consultant nurse in diabetes at East Staffordshire Primary Care Trust, showed that structured education by a nurse led to a 75 percent drop in hospital admissions and an 86 per cent drop in hypoglycemic episodes. Ms Kirkland asserts, “It is apparent that people with diabetes in care homes could benefit from a higher quality of diabetes care”.


Just a few hours of structured education with a diabetes specialist nurse can dramatically improve the quality of your residents’ lives.