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Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 00:16 GMT


Diabetics 'neglected' in care homes

Elderly diabetics are suffering through lack of care, says a report

Elderly diabetics in residential care homes are being put at risk by a lack of proper care, according to a survey.

In a report published on World Diabetes Day, the British Diabetic Association (BDA) says there is a lack of help for diabetics in residential homes, together with poor dietary guidance and insufficient assistance from doctors.

The report says many GPs are not providing enough help, despite having taken responsibility for them.

A large proportion of residential home staff have no experience of managing the condition and there is a shortage of diabetes training for care assistants, says the BDA.

Paul Streets, chief executive of the BDA, said: "The alarming news is that this is not an isolated problem.

"Our careline receives calls from families across the UK concerned that an elderly relative's health may deteriorate because they are not receiving proper diabetes care.

'No glucose checks'

"Many elderly residents with diabetes have no one responsible for checking the level of glucose in their blood, no one making sure they are eating a proper diet and no one organising regular reviews to detect the early signs of devastating conditions like blindness, heat disease, stroke and kidney failure."

[ image: Routine blood tests are missed, says the BDA]
Routine blood tests are missed, says the BDA
Figures show as many as one in ten residents in every care home has diabetes, mainly type II diabetes, which develops later in life and can either be controlled with diet and exercise, or with regular insulin medication.

Poorly-controlled type II diabetes can lead to the onset of severely disabling complications, including irreversible damage to eyes and the blood supply to the limbs.

The government is currently examining standards of care in residential homes, but their proposed changes do not specifically tackle the way individual conditions like diabetes are managed.

The BDA is calling for national standards of diabetes care in residential homes. Its recommendations include:

  • A named member of care staff for each diabetic resident, responsible for monitoring their condition
  • Individual care plan agreed between the resident, GP and care home staff
  • Diabetes education and training for all staff
  • A diabetes specialist nurse for older people
  • Screening for diabetes on first arrival and at two-yearly intervals
Professor Alan Sinclair, of the department of geriatrics at Birmingham University, and editor of the report, said: "Our primary aim for residents with diabetes must be to maintain the highest quality of life without unnecessary medical intervention, particularly when it is as a result of poor diabetes care.

"We know that some homes are already taking our recommendations on board, but this has to be a national initiative if residents in care homes across the UK and their families are to feel confident in the way their diabetes is treated."

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