emergency room, seniors, older Americans, diabetes, risks

Seniors and Diabetes: Risks and Dangers

Living with diabetes has many inherent complications. Being a senior over 65 with diabetes comes with even more risks. Seniors with diabetes are at higher risk for bone fractures, Alzheimer’s disease, the need for early nursing care, mortality, and more. Over 25 percent of people over age 65 in America have diabetes. 

ER visits

A recent study found that diabetes is the top reason seniors visit the emergency room. Diabetes complications are the reason for an ER visit in 25 percent of cases, followed by:

  • Chronic pulmonary disease 21.5%
  • Kidney disease 19%
  • Congestive heart disease 16%

This striking fact should spur seniors to take better control of their nutrition and blood sugar.

Many seniors suffer from multiple chronic conditions, making ER trip even more likely, and care more complicated.



Another recent study made the striking finding that seniors don’t tend to follow doctor’s orders when it comes to medications and lifestyle changes for diabetes. In fact, older patients frequently believe the opposite of what their doctors tell them. The survey went to 818 people with diabetes with an average age of 74 years old. 

Research has shown that many older adults are being overmedicated for diabetes, which can result in dangerous blood sugar lows. Especially for those with multiple chronic conditions, it’s recommended to reduce the amount of blood-sugar-lowering medications, especially insulin.

Many doctors are missing the mark on this, but also older adults aren’t listening to their doctors’ advice. In the study, patients believed that more aggressive treatment was needed the older they got, and they also believed that side effects were the main factor to look at when starting or stopping medications.

This is important information to take into account when considering diabetes management in seniors, as many may be taking meds they don’t need in too-high doses.

Mortality after disaster

Yet another study looked into mortality rates after a disaster. Specifically looking at the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the study found that seniors with diabetes had a 40 percent higher mortality rate after those natural disasters. Ten years later, those individuals still had a 6 percent greater mortality rate. 

This is perhaps due to the lack of access to health care, lack of diabetes supplies, lost medications, and difficulty monitoring blood sugar levels. Published in Diabetes Care, the study looked at more than 170,000 Medicare beneficiaries between 65 and 69 years of age with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 



As we can see, having diabetes as an older adult comes with many difficulties. In addition, aging is a significant risk factor for diabetes. These new findings should give doctors, older Americans, and caregivers much to consider.