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We welcome back guest writer June Duncan to The Purple Jacket.
Diabetes is extremely prevalent among seniors aged 65 and older, with one in four living with the disease, according to statistics cited by Senior Lifestyle. The most common diabetes among seniors is type 2 diabetes, which is caused by insulin resistance in which your body is unable to use insulin properly. Whether you’ve been living with the disease for some time or were just recently diagnosed, you’ll quickly discover just how expensive it can be. To help offset the cost and manage your diabetes, combine your Medicare coverage with proper self-care so that diabetes doesn’t hold you back from living your best life.
Educate Yourself on the Symptoms
When a sudden health issue crops up, it’s easy to dismiss it, but any sort of change in your body is your body’s way of trying to get your attention. Among seniors, the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are lethargy, chronic weakness, urinary tract infections, excessive thirst, numbness/tingling in the hands, arms, legs, and feet, and dental issues such as inflamed gums or mouth sores. Before you start experiencing full-on diabetic symptoms, an elevated blood glucose level is an indicator of prediabetes. Medicare Part B covers two diabetes screenings per year if a doctor notices any risk factors. You are also eligible for the two screenings if two or more of the following apply: you are age 65 and older, have a family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes, or you are overweight.
Diabetes Impacts More Than Just Glucose Levels
You already know that type 2 diabetes means your body doesn’t use insulin properly, so your body is unable to regulate your blood glucose levels. However, high blood sugar levels can cause various health complications. For example, diabetes often causes dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease and cavities. The changes in blood glucose levels can produce blurry vision, and as time passes, you are at greater risk for diabetic eye issues such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. For this reason, it is important that your Medicare coverage is working with you so that you can manage your diabetes and any health issues that may arise. Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage in areas such as dental and vision that regular Medicare doesn’t cover. If you think you could benefit from a Medicare Advantage plan, do some research on the plans available through Aetna to see if one is right for you.
Know What Medicare Covers
When it comes to coverage for diabetes, Medicare Part B and D are what you’ll need. Part B covers blood sugar testing monitors, test strips, lancets/lancet devices, blood sugar control solutions, and special diabetic footwear to help with circulation. In addition, Part B may even cover an insulin pump and insulin since it is considered durable medical equipment (DME), but you will likely have to pay 20 percent of the cost after you’ve met your deductible. Part D covers medical supplies such as syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, gauze, and inhalable insulin devices. It also covers insulin, but not if it is dispensed via an insulin pump; in this case, it could potentially be covered by Part B as DME.
Self-Care for Diabetes Management
In addition to taking your insulin and diabetes medication, diet and exercise should be an important part of your diabetes management routine. A diabetic diet isn’t much different from a regular healthy diet. It should be filled with fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean protein, and healthy carbs and fats. Also, be sure to limit sugar, salt, fat, and cholesterol. As for exercise, opt for aerobic exercise and strength training, as both help your body better use insulin and may increase your insulin sensitivity. Stress can also increase your blood sugar, so find ways to relax, such as breathing exercises, yoga, or journaling.
Managing your diabetes requires that you adopt a new lifestyle. It also requires an investment in supplies and equipment. By taking advantage of your Medicare coverage and incorporating diabetic self-care, managing your diabetes doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive.
June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is the author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.