Supporting older adults with diabetes during covid-19

WRITTEN BY: T’ara Smith, MS, Nutrition Education

With COVID-19 spreading around the world, it’s important to be prepared, not panic, and practice social distancing, especially for people with underlying conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Though people of all ages are susceptible to contracting COVID-19, older adults appear to be more vulnerable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled adults aged 65 and older as a high-risk group for severe illness from COVID-19. It’s also important to note diabetes impacts many older adults — an estimated 33 percent aged 65 and over have diabetes and are at risk of complications like low blood sugar, kidney failure, and heart disease.

At a time like this, it’s important to think about how the COVID-19 public health crisis impacts our elders with diabetes, whether they be our grandparents, friends, or neighbors. Here are some tips on supporting older adults with diabetes during COVID-19:

Help ensure medications and food are stocked

Help older adults obtain at least a month’s supply or more of diabetes medications and supplies. If available, have them delivered by the pharmacy. Note that insulin can’t be delivered, so consider picking it up from the pharmacy for them. Health plans are also waiving early refill restrictions and allowing 90-day supplies. America’s Health Insurance Plans has a list of health insurance companies and the steps they’re taking to address the pandemic.

In regards to food, insist on helping older adults set up a grocery delivery service. If those services are unavailable, offer to pick up groceries for them. If your loved one is insisting they shop on their own, many grocery stores have set up a system where the first hour the store is open is reserved for older and immuno-compromised shoppers only. Everything is freshly cleaned and the crowds are smaller.

Stay Informed about COVID-19

We’re learning new information about the coronavirus, which leads to the viral disease COVID-19, every day. Keep up-to-date with changing guidelines and new research by the WHO and CDC. As we learn more about the coronavirus, we’ll be updating the information here. In the meantime, continue to follow WHO and CDC guidelines such as hand-washing, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, avoiding touching your face, coughing into your elbow, and more.

Implement Household Changes

If you live in a multigenerational household, there are varying levels of COVID-19 risks. In this case, it’s important to consider how likely each member is to be carrying the virus, especially if some members are essential workers. Consider implementing household rules such as not sharing personal items like cups, utensils, food, and water. If you have space, designate a bedroom and bathroom for potentially exposed or sick family members. Also, consider limiting or forbidding visitors. People may be carrying the disease without displaying symptoms.

Communicate with their healthcare team

You can support older adults with diabetes during COVID-19 by helping them communicate with their healthcare team. Non-essential doctor’s visits can be held online and these services are offered by health plans. Assist older adults who may not be technologically savvy by setting up virtual doctor’s appointments.

If your loved one is in a nursing or retirement home, contact the facility to learn what measures are in place to handle the public health crisis. Ask what adjustments are going to be made to your loved one’s routine, particularly with blood glucose management.

Know that visitation may not be recommended at this time, as assisted-living and long-term care facilities have to consider that visitors may be carrying the disease. Advocates are also urging family members to not panic and do not recommend bringing home loved ones to avoid infection. However, if you’re interested in becoming a caregiver, learn what the caregiver laws are in your state and what health decisions you can legally make on their behalf.

Stay connected to prevent isolation.

In the midst of social distancing, feeling isolated can become a real problem. Older adults may be feeling more anxious and overwhelmed than usual. Use things like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and more to stay connected. Talk about things that aren’t related to COVID-19. However, if they want to discuss the virus and simply need someone to listen, be that person. If you notice COVID-19 is taking a deeper toll than you can handle, recommend professional online therapy services. Some are covered by insurance or have a co-pay. There are other online therapy services like Talkspace and BetterHealth where you can be connected to a counselor.


And Tudiabetes :wink:

Thanks for posting this topic, @Mila. Since I crossed the threshold into the elderly category a few years ago, I’m happy to read practical advice given to thoughtfully help the older generation during these times.

I trust that the author will be tuned into the change-over to the use of physical distancing from social distancing. It’s a word distinction that matters!


Not to sound too much like an old crank…but I would like to see the younger cohort who are out running and biking on these spring days to show a little more distancing courtesy. When I’ve been out walking the runners come past without yielding the right of way. Who needs to step out into the road to maintain separation, the oldster or the runner? I saw an elderly neighbor this morning who looked petrified as a runner came right at her. She had to move off the road shoulder into a weed patch. Shouldn’t that runner have been the one to yield? OK, that ends my rant.

This reminds me of an event about 10-12 years ago in China where a blind man with a cane was crossing a 6 lane highway in the crosswalk and while doing so the light turned green and the cars just screeched around him honking their horns. He was petrified and the Chinese on both sides of the highway on the sidewalk waiting for the light to change again were just laughing at him loudly as he got totally disoriented and did not know which way to even turn.

I ran to his rescue dodging cars, grabbed him by the arm and walked him to safety. He was shaking like a leaf and speechless. I just squeezed his arm, patted him on the back and went on my way. It is one of those experiences I will never, ever forget and a reminder of how callous humans can sometimes be.


CJ114: reminds me of the time when my cousins and I were in Rome, and we were trying to cross a major street. One of my cousins was blind…scary, scary time.

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I will rant here about a purely emotional, interpersonal problem, not involving immediate physical danger at all.

Two close relatives carefully use electronic media to yell and scream at us if we leave the house to buy essential food or essential medications; it is against the instructions. If we hint that we might need some help in these matters, these same two relatives use these same electronic media to say that we are making a burden of ourselves at a time when they feel pressured.

People are not only callous, they are odd as well.


People ARE odd, time has definitely proven that theory out!

These are odd times and we all need to cut each other an extra dose of slack. Until recently I called my 98-year-old mother, who lives 85 miles away, once a week for 15-20 minutes and cooked her a nice meal a few times a month. Now I call her daily for 35-45 minutes and just hope it helps her sanity as it is certainly taxes mine. This virus is really tough for all of us in circumstances never before imagined


Yes, my mother turns 100 in July. Until a few weeks ago we kids were busy planning the party. Now she is isolated and pretty bummed out. Phone calls, cards and gifts of food and books are about all we can do for her for a while. 3,000 miles away.


I know this is hard…particularly for some more than others. Is she in some sort of assisted living facility or on her own? If she’s in assisted living could someone help her set up a video chat system. (If she couldn’t figure it out on her own). Maybe video chat would help…