Technology has had a profound effect on medicine—and what’s most exciting is that we’ve only brushed the surface of what’s possible. Each day, more and more older adults are being helped by new tech developments—and when it comes to diseases like diabetes that rely on ongoing treatment, the benefits can make a big difference to your loved one’s health. Between glucose-monitoring apps, online pharmacies, and health check-ups done by video conference, your aging loved one has access to more support than ever before.
These technologies can encourage older adults to stick with a healthy routine, order medications more easily, and stay in touch with their doctor at all times. Similarly, apps that enable users to track their meals, exercise, and insulin levels are proving increasingly helpful for older adults with diabetes. Having access to this kind of ongoing support through a smartphone or computer can help your aging loved one control their blood sugar, and manage the disease more effectively.
Why Diet, Exercise, and Glucose-Monitoring Helps Diabetes
Diabetes affects millions of Americans, in particular older adults—nearly 26% (11.8 million) of people over 65 are affected by it. The disease is caused by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or use it properly. Early warning signs include being thirsty all the time, urinating more frequently, feeling hungrier than usual, and experiencing daily fatigue. If left untreated, the disease can also lead to more serious issues like chronic vision problems, blindness, kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease.
Diabetes doesn’t yet have a cure, so a long-term treatment strategy to control glucose levels is necessary. In addition to medication (when needed), doctors recommend focusing on diet and exercise. Exercise helps balance your loved one’s blood sugar levels: during exercise, their body uses glucose without needing insulin.
The food your loved one eats also has a big impact on their blood sugar levels. For example, certain types of carbohydrates and sugars can cause problems for diabetics—one of the best ways to mitigate symptoms and manage diabetes in the long run is to be disciplined about monitoring blood sugar, eating well, and exercising regularly.
How Apps Can Help Your Aging Loved One Control Their Diabetes
Using diet and exercise to help keep diabetes under control sounds straightforward, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Sticking to a nutrition plan and exercise routine can be tough for anyone, let alone an older adult whose eating and fitness patterns are already deeply ingrained. And many older adults struggle with diabetes as a result of a lifetime of poor diet and lack of exercise.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of apps available now that are designed to help manage the disease. They provide multiple advantages for older adults who may find it difficult to change old habits, or to keep track of numbers each day.
- Monitor data: Apps enable your aging loved one to keep track of everything in one place without fear of misplacing it or forgetting. For instance, tracking daily glucose levels can prove essential for diabetes sufferers.
- Share information: Many apps can be shared between more than one user. This can help caregivers and family members stay connected to their loved one, and help by offering motivation. It also lets them share important data and records with doctors.
- Set goals easily: Most fitness and diet apps use goal setting to encourage the user to make progress. Having a daily reminder to move forward can provide regular incentives—and inspire your loved one to stick with their treatment plan.
- Notice patterns: When your loved one starts using an app to track their food intake, fitness schedule, and glucose levels, certain patterns might start to emerge. This can help draw attention to problem areas, and even illuminate the root of the problem.
Useful Apps That Monitor Glucose, Exercise, and Diet
There’re a wealth of apps for diabetics currently available, and more are coming out each year. Many of the best ones are free of charge and simple to use. Caregivers can help their loved one choose an app that best fits their needs, and ensure they feel comfortable using it. Don’t be afraid to try out a few before settling on one long-term.
- OnTrack Diabetes: This app comes highly recommended for older adults looking for a way to track many aspects of their health, including blood sugar levels, weight, and diet. It keeps a history of your data so your loved one can see their progress in a graph. These records can be useful to show their doctor during a check-up.
- BG Monitor Diabetes: This app has an easy interface ideal for older adults who might not consider themselves tech-savvy. Your loved one can track their meals in a snazzy photo log, making food-monitoring a lot more fun. They can also track their insulin levels, and set alarms for when to take it. And, the app offers plenty of options to see data visualized as spreadsheets and graphs.
- Glooko: Your loved one needs to subscribe to Glooko in order to get this app free, but the investment (around $60 per year) is worth it if they have numerous glucose tracking devices. Glooko will sync all your loved one’s devices—whether it’s an insulin pump or step tracker—and make sense of all the combined data.
- mySugr Diabetes Logbook: Older adults with vision issues will benefit from this app’s vibrant color palette and simple user-interface. Your loved one can track their food, emotional state, and glucose levels, as well as generate readings and reports that are useful to their doctors.
As your loved one gets older, it becomes even more important to manage diabetes through diet, exercise, and proper glucose level tracking. Newly available tech tools, like apps and video conferencing with health professionals, can quickly become invaluable resources in your loved one’s ongoing treatment plan.
As a caregiver, you can connect your aging loved one to these technologies and show them how to use them if they need extra support. The process of choosing an app might even help spark a discussion about your loved one’s current treatment plan—or areas where they want to improve. With so many ways to incorporate technology into your loved one’s diabetes management, embracing new healthcare advancements will help older adults better cope with the disease on a daily basis.
If you’re unsure how to help your aging loved one with diabetes, Institute on Aging offers a wide range of supportive services, programs, and online resources. Contact us today to learn more.