Diabetes Management for Seniors

Cases of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes continue to climb across Canada, and particularly for people over the age of 65. In fact, about half of the people in Canada living with diabetes are 65 years of age or older.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both caused by the body’s inability to properly store and use glucose. Both types have the same underlying issue, but there are profound differences between the two.

Type 1 Diabetes

This type of diabetes typically appears in children or adolescents, but may occur in adults as well. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that is heavily influenced by genetics, where the body produces insufficient levels of insulin. There is currently no method of prevention for type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is much rarer that type 2 diabetes, making up only about 5% of diabetes cases in Canada.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is much more common, making up almost 95% of total cases. This type of diabetes tends to develop later in life and is characterized by the body’s inability to effectively process insulin. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has increased dramatically over the past couple decades, and is associated with a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes can be effectively managed and treated if detected early enough. Some warning signs to be on the lookout for that may indicate type 2 diabetes, include:

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Blurred visible
  • Inexplicable weight loss
  • Skin discoloration
  • Persistent foot sores or ulcers

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer produces sufficient levels of insulin, or insulin resistance develops. But what causes insulin resistance?
An assortment of factors can contribute to the onset of insulin sensitivity and resistance. Some of those factors can be:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking
  • Medications
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood glucose levels
  • Cholesterol levels
    • Low HDL cholesterol (healthy cholesterol)
    • High LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)
  • Chronic inflammation

Poor diet and lack of exercise are two of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Put those two together and your risk of developing the disease increases significantly.

How to Prevent and Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Prevention and management of type 2 diabetes can occur by making some healthy changes to your lifestyle. This is particularly important for seniors.
Seniors at risk for or living with type 2 diabetes can focus on:

  • Implementing a nutritious diet
  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Managing medications
  • Monitoring blood sugar
  • Monitoring blood pressure
  • Monitoring cholesterol
  • Effective foot care


One of the biggest factors to focus on for type 2 diabetes prevention and treatment is diet. A nutritious diet is absolutely crucial for seniors at risk for diabetes. A healthy diet should be low in calories and high in nutrients.

Foods to focus on include:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Protein – quality fish and poultry
  • Moderate levels of healthy carbohydrates

Foods to avoid are:

  • Sugary beverages
  • Any foods with added sugar
  • Trans fats – baked goods, chips, spreads and dips
  • High carbs – pasta, white bread, rice – anything with refined flour
  • Processed meats
  • Excess red meat
  • Packaged and canned foods
  • Deep fried foods

Getting the proper vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help prevent chronic inflammation which can lead to type 2 diabetes and other health conditions.


A nutritious diet should be accompanied with plenty of water. Staying hydrated is critical for optimal health and illness prevention.


Daily exercise is also critical for type 2 diabetes prevention. Even just an hour a day of low-impact exercise can make a huge difference. A combination of aerobic activity, along with strength and flexibility exercises is ideal. Try to avoid sitting still for extended periods.

Medication Management

Taking your medication exactly as prescribed is important for the medication to have its intended effects, and also to prevent adverse side effects. There may also be some medications that can help manage your situation, as prescribed by your physician.

Monitoring Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol

Keeping track of glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood, as well as maintaining healthy blood pressure, are all effective measures for keeping type 2 diabetes in check. Consult a health care professional for recommended methods and frequency.

Foot Care

Persisting sores and ulcers on the feet are often an indicator of type 2 diabetes. Seniors should inspect feet daily for blemishes and engage in healthy foot care practices like cleaning, moisturizing, and wearing proper footwear.

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