Let’s face it… diabetes is a condition impacting many Americans, especially older workers. As the age of the workforce increases so does the prevalence of diabetes in the workplace. Today, over 25% of older Americans (65 years +) have diabetes. Although diabetes can be a debilitating disease, if it is properly managed with appropriate diet, exercise, and medication, the effects can be minimal. Below are some tips for individuals working alongside older workers (or adults of any age) diagnosed with diabetes.
1. Learn the facts about diabetes. In order to properly understand and provide assistance to older workers with diabetes you must be informed yourself. Try websites like,
http://ndep.nih.gov and http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/, or watch videos like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHlWM8_iqfA on YouTube.
2. Encourage your older workers’ self-care, but do not nag. Praise your older workers when you notice them managing their diabetes and taking care of themselves. Let them know that you are inspired by their bravery, but do not put them down when you notice they have not kept up with good habits. You cannot force anyone to make positive decisions in their life; however, you can be an excellent support system, and encourage them to manage their health.
3. Know the symptoms of high and low blood sugar. Older workers with diabetes may often suffer from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It is important to be aware of the signs so you can get older workers help if they need it. The symptoms of high blood sugar are frequent urination, blurred vision, tiredness and increased thirst. High blood sugar can occur after eating a lot or when diabetes medications are not being taken properly. The symptoms of low blood sugar are shakiness, sweating, confusion, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, hunger, tiredness, blurred vision, tingling, headache, and lastly seizures or unconsciousness. Low blood sugar can occur in diabetics after they inject insulin if their blood glucose levels drop lower than 70 mg/dL. To treat low blood sugar, older workers with diabetes should consume 15 grams of carbohydrate such as, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit, ½ cup of soda or juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, a few hard candies, a handful of jellybeans, etc. Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency and can result in coma or death.
4. Accommodate insulin storage. Insulin manufacturers suggest that insulin should be stored in the freezer but very cold insulin can be painful when injected. Ideally insulin currently being used should be stored at room temperature. Insulin can be stored at room temperature for about a month. Insulin should never be stored in direct heat, cold air or in the sunlight. In order to support older workers with diabetes ensure a proper place in the work facility where they can store and use their insulin safely.
Sarah O’Connor holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Drexel University in Nutrition and Food Science and is currently completing her Dietetic Internship at Montclair State University. She is also a certified yoga instructor and fitness enthusiast.