The Underestimated Threat of Depression in Elderly People with Diabetes

3:03 PM, Sep 19, 2019
12:20 PM, Sep 24, 2019

Diabetes mellitus, a chronic metabolic disease, has reached epidemic status; and it now poses one of the major threats to human health of the twenty-first century. In 2017, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated that 425 million individuals worldwide were suffering from diabetes mellitus, and it is expected that the number will rise to 629 million by 2045.

How to detect depression and how does it impact diabetes?

Depression is associated with physical and cognitive decline in the elderly.
It has been confirmed that diabetes can increase the risk of depressive symptoms to some extent, while depression can increase the risk of developing diabetes as BMC Public Health published most recently.
Depression is a multifaceted phenomenon that involves loss of satisfaction, hope, energy, and interest; and it is often accompanied by feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, boredom, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
It can impinge on a patient’s self-management ability and hinder adherence to treatment regimens. Although there have been tremendous advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, depression in diabetic patients remains underdiagnosed and undertreated. Unrecognized and untreated depression in diabetic patients lead to a higher prevalence of depression and a probability of greater severity; which in turn causes poor glycemic control, lower adherence to medication, higher treatment costs, and a higher mortality rate.

Isn’t depression just a sign of aging?

Depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging. And older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing depression. If you are concerned about a loved one, offer to go with him or her to see a health care provider to be diagnosed and treated.
Although they experience it at relatively high rates, many healthcare providers mistake elderly patients’ depression symptoms as a natural response to aging and do not have the patient pursue treatment. This missed opportunity to treat the patient can send them into a destructive cycle, as the perceived loss of control associated with depression can result in the patient experiencing diabetes “burnout”. Diabetes burnout is a condition in which a diabetes patient becomes detached from their diabetes care, usually caused by frustration with constant treatment. This burnout results in an elevated A1c, which can worsen depression and begin the cycle anew.

Because of the detrimental relationship between hemoglobin A1c and depression, there’s a problem with senior diabetics having low quality of life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2015, 25% of Americans over the age of 65 had diabetes. If even a small fraction of this population has a high A1c, millions of diabetics are at risk for depression and medical complications. This is important, as a large part of the population is likely suffering without being treated for depression.
Seniors are seldom referred to therapists for mental health treatment. It can be said that many elderly diabetes patients’ control of their blood sugars is being negatively affected by lack of treatment. If A1c keeps increasing due to burnout, the patient’s quality of life will decline. With this decline, it is likely that depression symptoms will increase in frequency and the cycle will perpetuate itself until either the patient develops medical complications (which could potentially be life threatening) or receives treatment.

Nobody deserves to have a diminished quality of life because of their A1c. Research into this relationship is vital, as understanding the interplay between A1c and depression can lead to improved treatment on both the part of the endocrinologist and the patient’s mental health professional. This improvement in treatment can be lifesaving and should be investigated to ensure that people with diabetes maintain the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.

Since the near future holds more exciting advances in diabetes care, how can you be a part of revolutionizing diabetes management?

Many people say participating in a clinical trial is a way to play a more active role in their own health care. Other people say they want to help researchers learn more about certain health problems. Whatever the motivation, when you choose to participate in a clinical trial, you become a partner in scientific discovery. And, your contribution can help future generations lead healthier lives. Major medical breakthroughs could not happen without the generosity of clinical trial participants—young and old, says National Institute on Aging.

AMCR Institute, a premier clinical research center for diabetes, explained the benefits of volunteering for clinical trials. Benefits include:
· A full physical exam at no cost
· Free laboratory work-ups
· No health insurance needed
· Potentially free glucose testing supplies and medication provided
· The possibility of a stipend for time and travel expenses
· Improved health outcomes because of the attention to your overall health
· Improved A1c levels from increased attention to blood sugar levels
· Free education for you and your family and loved ones

By taking an active role in your health care, you both help yourself and further research for other people in your situation. Contact AMCR Institute for more information on clinical trials.

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