Diabetes can cause health complications but with proper care and home modifications people can stay safely in their homes.
Diabetes effect on hearing
The National Institue of Health states that hearing loss is found twice as often in people with diabetes. In addition people with pre-diabetes can have a hearing loss of almost 30% as compared to those with normal blood sugar levels.
Simple sounds, such as from a telephone, a doorbell or a smoke alarm, can become difficult and sometimes impossible to hear which can lead to dangerous situations. Fortunately there are devices that can address all of these issues. Doorbells, telephones and smoke/fire alarms can be connected to a bright, flashing strobe light that immediately alerts the homeowner. Smoke alarms can be even have a wireless connection to a pillow that vibrates, a device that can shake a bed or a pocket buzzer. There are also smoke detectors that emit a loud, low, mixed-pitch sound.
Diabetes effect on nerve damage
Long-term exposure to high levels of glucose can damage the nerves that send messages to the brain (diabetic neuropathy) ultimately causing the nerve to not conduct impulses effectively. One of the results of high levels of glucose over a long period of time is a painful, burning or stinging feeling in certain parts of your body, particularly your feet. And since the nerves do not function as well, the ability to sense or “feel” your feet can be lost and your muscles may not work as well. The simple act of walking can become quite painful and difficult. This change in feeling puts you at risk for falling and tripping, one of the most common reasons seniors are seen in emergency rooms.
Creating a safe home environment involves clearing clutter and making home modifications. Trip hazards must be removed from walking areas. The use of throw rugs should be eliminated or the rugs should be securely taped down or affixed to the flooring so that they do not roll or curl up (which leads to tripping). Ensure that stair treads and all floor surfaces are non-skid, non-slip materials. Glossy or shiny surfaces should be avoided due to their slippery nature. It is wise to install no/low thresholds (such at doorways and with a walk-in shower) and to avoid stairway use by installing a ramp, where possible. There are a large variety of ramps currently on the market, including modular, easy-to-install ones.
Diabetes effect on vision
Diabetes can weaken and/or damage the small blood vessels in the retina of your eye (diabetic retinopathy). When these blood vessels become damaged, fluid can leak from them, causing swelling in the central part of the retina called the macula. The macula is the part of the eye that provides you with clear, sharp vision and this swelling can cause the vision to become blurry, making it hard for eye to focus and for you to see clearly.
The same holds true for glaucoma and cataracts, which can both cause vision problems. 40% of people with diabetes are more likely to suffer from glaucoma and 60% have a greater chance of developing cataracts. While there is treatment for these conditions, diabetic retinopathy can severely restrict mobility in the home.
Some of the safety precautions recommended for nerve damage also apply to vision problems, such as non-slip floor surface materials and eliminating throw rugs. In addition, those who have sight problems can have trouble determining when entering different rooms as they walk through the home. Contrasting flooring colors between rooms makes movement from one room to another room or through a hall much easier to navigate. Similarly, no/low thresholds, elimination of stairs, lighted face plates for switches, touch lamps and special telephones with large dials are also helpful modifications.
Creating a safe home environment that allows "aging in place" is important to just about everybody; whether they have diabetes or not. 90 percent of Americans age 60 and older choose to stay right where they are, according to 20 years of data from the U.S. Census Bureau.