"Diabetes medications are designed to lower glucose levels, which can prevent complications from developing in diabetic people. But, when you take medicines to lower blood glucose, it can go too low, which can be extremely dangerous, especially for older adults," Resnick said, noting that it's difficult to find "the appropriate balance between keeping sugars low with the risk of keeping it too low."
Strumph pointed out that the needs of older people with diabetes may be different as well. People with type 1 diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes who need insulin often choose to use an insulin pump when they're younger, but pumps may not be the best choice for someone who's older and not as aware, he said.
"Someone in a nursing home could pull out a pump site and not know. In that case, you may want to be on a longer-acting insulin instead. We haven't yet defined what the ideal insulin [regimen] is for someone in a facility with a fairly predictable schedule," Strumph said.
Both Strumph and Resnick said it's important for family members, the nursing home resident, and the staff to come up with a realistic care plan.
"Families need to become more actively involved in working with care teams, and that's true for diabetes and for other conditions. Ensure that the facility understands the family's and the resident's preferences. Is your mother more interested in keeping her blood glucose control tight and risk [low blood sugar]? Or is it better for her to ease up on glucose control and work more on quality-of-life issues? Resnick said.
"Families have to be very involved, and the communication needs to be ongoing, because people's values can change," she added.
For tips on selecting a nursing home, visit the AARP Web s
All rights reserved