EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 1, 2013

Diabetic father could need some 'tough love'

Rosanne DiStefano
Elder Q&A

---- — Q: My father was diagnosed with Diabetes Type II earlier this year. I have noticed he is not really paying any attention to watching what he eats and following orders given to him by his doctor. He reads your column, could you provide general information that may help him make the adjustment?

A: Diabetes is a chronic disease caused either by a lack of the hormone insulin or the body’s inability to use it. The hormone is vital for the process of converting sugar and starches into glucose, the body’s principal fuel. When insulin deficiency prevents the body from utilizing glucose, the body starts to burn its own fat and muscle, resulting in a potentially dangerous health condition.

Care plans for diabetics feature guidelines for exercise, medication (if required) and food consumption. Standard preprinted diet plans for many individuals has been replaced with a more flexible approach to food recommendations. Individuality is a newer philosophy. Be mindful this does not mean someone can give into their cravings for sweets without making other food adjustments.

The amount of food eaten is closely related to blood sugar control. Correct portions is a key to successful meal planning. Most patients can learn to do this although it takes practice and discipline. No guessing in the beginning ; measuring is essential until the person has developed the skill of visually determining how much something weighs.

Encourage your father to ask his physician for a referral to a registered dietician connected to a Medicare certified provider. Medicare covers the cost of this service, less the 20 percent of Medicare approved amount and Part B deductible. If your father has additional insurance he will not incur additional expenses. By working with a nutrition expert he could learn to select appropriate foods, eat in a timely manner throughout the day, understand food exchange groups and count carbohydrates. The dietician can assist him in designing meal plans to meet his personal needs. He may also consider attending a Diabetes Self-Management Program offered in community settings. Meeting with other diabetics could provide him with much needed support, incentives to improve his health and encourage him to set goals in his life to manage the disease.

The challenge for many diabetics is to balance what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Anyone concerned with nutrition and calorie or carbohydrate intake should pay more attention to food labels.

The unanswered question is why your father has been noncompliant in regards to his new diagnosis. It is important to determine if he is still in denial of his condition or doesn’t really understand the disease. It may be time for a little “tough love” from your father’s physician.

Do you have a question? We encourage comments and inquiries from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.