One of the more frightening things we know currently about Alzheimer’s disease is how little we really know about this form of dementia. The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care follows ongoing research closely and also works with many patients and their families in the Manchester area daily that are affected by this disease.
Each year, a little bit more seems to be known about what environmental or genetic conditions could trigger Alzheimer’s disease. Likewise, there’s similar efforts going into learning what happens to people mentally and physically once it manifests, and what health conditions can make its progression speed up or slow down.
Does exercise, or lack of it, play a role? How about diet? Are there certain activities that can make one more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease, or diminish symptoms and let someone live longer being clear-headed rather than being increasingly confused? Currently medical experts don’t have firm answers to many of these questions.
However, current research seems to be promising into the role that glucose levels may play.
A 2016 overview in Psychology Today describes how more people are reporting having resistances to insulin, which means it can be easier for insulin levels to build up in the body and cause blood-sugar problems such as diabetes. But at the same time, insulin may have a difficult time entering the brain in resistant people, which can ultimately result in deterioration of the brain tissue from a lack of glucose and energy. Eventually, this can cause memory problems, personality changes and the confusion that are all recognizable as key symptoms of Alzheimer’s’ disease.
This article suggests that modifying ones diet by focusing on more natural foods and avoiding items high in sugar, carbohydrates or other refined products, can instantly begin to have a positive effect on reducing insulin levels in the body and increasing levels in the brain.
It even uses the term “Type 3 Diabetes” to describe insulin resistance of the brain, to contrast to Type 2 Diabetes that is more about insulin resistance in the body.
End of life care
Beyond the discussions about insulin’s possible role in contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, health professionals are also discussing its role in other areas of someone’s life.
When someone with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes is moved to palliative care or hospice care, their caregivers may begin to treat diabetes less aggressively, including less frequent insulin injections in some cases.
This goes to the purpose of these types of care: caregivers or providers may not need to check blood sugar levels or provide insulin on a regular basis. This can be a painful or uncomfortable ritual that may not be needed as often, especially if someone is showing advanced symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and may not understand their situation.
Certainly caregivers can take steps to address low blood sugar situations quickly, but regular long-term care management of diabetic conditions may not be given as much as a priority as it used to be, in favor of providing better current conditions for patient comfort and general quality of life.
For instance, rather than providing regular injections throughout the day to always be monitoring a patient’s levels and being concerned about future development of diabetes, caregivers may give one long-acting injection in the morning.
Family members used to different strategies for managing their loved one’s diabetes may be unsure of this new procedure, especially if someone has been treating it for a long time. So they may see greater thirst or mood changes than they’re used to, especially if blood sugar levels rise higher.
Certainly family wishes and concerns should be taken into account, but sometimes a provider may say that previous warnings about the risk of it turning into more advanced diabetes don’t need to be worried about anymore. Or if someone has maintained a firm schedule of blood checks and injections throughout the day, being as rigid with these may not be as vital, especially if the purpose of them was to avoid future problems.
How home health care can help
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is always available to discuss topics of patient care, especially patients with Alzheimer’s disease who also have diabetes. Though there are certain protocols for treating each disease separately, there can be confusion for proper treatment methods and philosophies for treating them simultaneously.
There’s a fine line in palliative care and hospice situations where providers try to provide as much comfort as possible but also help treat any immediate threats to comfort and quality of life.
ABHHC has been working with patients throughout the Manchester area and eastern Iowa, so we’ve heard and answered many questions about care, especially possible changes in diabetic management as a patient moves through the hospice system. Whether it’s helping monitor a patient’s diet to improve glucose flow to the brain or looking at possible modifications to regular treatment, we can assist.