Chronic Diabetes in the Elderly: The Effects of Treatment Burnout


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By Christine Cadena

Diabetes in the elderly is expected to rise in the next several decades as the baby boomer population begins to enter retirement. For many elderly adults, diabetes will be a lifelong health battle and will require the attention and support of family members to ensure compliance is treatment is maintained. If you are caring for an elderly adult that is living with diabetes, is it important to understand not only what treatment is available but also what effects can arise when burnout occurs.

Burnout in any type of treatment of a chronic health condition is quite normal. In fact, when forced to manage diabetes with medications, diet and exercise, most elderly adults will simply throw their hands up and give up the realm of their diabetes regimen. For diabetes, however, treatment is vital to ensuring long term health and to prevent other health conditions from developing. For this reason, burnout must be identified early.

Non-compliance in diabetic treatment is the first sign of burnout. While it is normal for a diabetic adult to be relaxed with diet and exercise, if there are signs that medications for diabetes are not being taken or diabetic injections are not being administered, this could be indicative of far greater complications. Burnout is common and must be accepted as part of the diabetic patient’s treatment profile. Managing and minimizing burnout can be challenging.
As a loved one, caring for an elderly adult with diabetes, you will want to speak with a healthcare provider about the elements of burnout. Because diabetes is a chronic condition that required three levels of care, when burnout arises, there is usually one element of treatment that is given way. When this occurs, most healthcare professionals will recommend boosting the other two elements to ensure that the diabetes is managed as effectively as possible.
Burnout of diabetes treatment can be challenging to control and manage in the elderly. Because the elderly often become non-compliant with treatment, the tendency for burnout is not only stronger but can also be challenging to control. As a caregiver of an elderly adult, if you find that burnout is an issue, be sure to address the diabetes treatment options with a healthcare provider and boost up the other two forms of treatment when the third has reached burnout levels. In doing so, you can ensure your loved one is given the best opportunity to manage not only the diabetes but to also overcome burnout by choice and not by force.Sources: Geriatric Patients Today, 2007: 6:78-82.

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