Diabetes in Aged Care

 Jane​ McQualter - Clinical Specialist, Dietetics - Vivir Healthcare

Jane​ McQualter - Clinical Specialist, Dietetics - Vivir Healthcare

15 April 2021

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an ​Diabetes is a growing concern in the aged care setting. It is now estimated that up to 25% of residents in an aged care setting can have diabetes and this number is likely to grow due to our ageing population.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when the body can no longer control the amount of glucose in the blood which leads to high blood glucose levels. Glucose is classified as a carbohydrate. Examples of carbohydrate foods are breads and cereals, rice, pasta, potato, dairy foods, fruit, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and juices. Over a long period of time, uncontrolled diabetes can cause complications such as heart disease, foot ulcers, kidney failure and vision loss.

There are two types of Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body destroys the cells that produce insulin. This is a less common form of diabetes and only 10–15% of people with diabetes have this type. Type 2 diabetes is the more common type and affects 85–90% of all people with diabetes.

Diabetes in an aged care setting

It can be challenging to manage diabetes in an aged care setting as it can be a balancing act between controlling blood glucose levels, optimising quality of life and preventing malnutrition or unwanted weight loss amongst residents. Unnecessary dietary restrictions that can result in a decreased food and fluid intake and place the resident at an increased risk of malnutrition is not recommended. The main goal should be on meeting the individual’s dietary requirements and promoting enjoyment of meals instead of focusing on tight control of blood glucose levels.

Diabetes and diet myths in aged care

‘People with diabetes can’t eat sugar’False.

It is a common misconception that diabetic residents should avoid sugar. However, residents should be able to enjoy sugar in moderate amounts, such as having jam on their toast, a glass of orange juice with breakfast, sugar in their tea or coffee, and their desserts.

‘Residents with diabetes should be provided with a diabetic diet’ False.

A well planned and balanced menu should be provided to all aged care residents. Residents with diabetes do not need to have special foods such as artificial sweetener or sugar-free lollies, jams or drinks. Research has now shown that residents with diabetes should enjoy a balanced and liberal diet and do not need to follow a separate ‘diabetic diet’.

Diet tips for Residents with Diabetes:

Ensure there is an even distribution of carbohydrate containing foods at each meal and snacks. This should be consistent with the regular menu that is offered to all residents.

  • Avoid hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia occurs when blood glucose levels fall too low and can arise in residents who take some oral hypoglycaemic medications or are receiving insulin. Common dietary causes of hypoglycaemia can include missing a meal or snack, long periods of time without eating or a low intake of carbohydrate foods. Hypoglycaemia can occur overnight but a way to help avoid it occurring can be to ensure a suitable snack before bed is provided, such as a milk drink, sandwich or yoghurt and fruit.

  • Ordinary jam, honey, regular ice-cream, sugar with tea/coffee, the main dessert, cakes and muffins should all be offered to residents with diabetes. Diet products are not necessary.

  • Fresh fruit should always be available.

  • Keep hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of water is important for residents with diabetes as being dehydrated can negatively impact on blood glucose levels.

It is always important to get individualised dietary advice for residents with diabetes from an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

To talk to one of our friendly representatives about our dietetic services please contact us today.