Monitors could help elderly with diabetes

Older people with memory problems can find it tricky to keep an eye on their blood sugars. Picture: Contributed
Older people with memory problems can find it tricky to keep an eye on their blood sugars. Picture: Contributed
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Older people with diabetes and memory problems would benefit from using wearable glucose monitors, a study suggests.

The devices help people with diabetes manage their condition by reducing the need for fingerprick blood tests.

The newest technology works by allowing a sensor inserted under the skin on the arm to pick up sugar readings for up to two weeks

KATHARINA MATTISHENT

Researchers from the University of East Anglia trialled the monitors with 12 participants who had an average age of 85 and were experiencing memory problems or had a diagnosis of dementia.

Lead researcher Dr Katharina Mattishent, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Older people with memory problems can find it more difficult to keep an eye on their blood sugars.

“Older methods of checking blood sugars rely on people doing finger-prick tests. The newest technology works by allowing a sensor inserted under the skin on the arm to pick up sugar readings all the time for up to two weeks without having to do finger-prick tests.

“The sensor reads sugar levels and transmits them wirelessly to a display on a portable reader held near the sensor - a bit like swiping a contactless bank card.”

The Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system, used by former prime minister Theresa May, was made available on the NHS in 2017.

While it has been approved, mainly for younger adults, it is not universally available.

“It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of older people with dementia also have coexisting diabetes,” said Dr Mattishent.

“It’s a big problem because they may be more prone to low blood sugars from their medication, but not recognising the warning signs - or what to do if it happens. This is the first project to see if new wearable glucose monitoring technology could be useful for older people with diabetes and memory problems.”

Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Devices which continuously monitor people with dementia could help keep them out of hospital, preventing unnecessary distress, and saving the NHS money.”

The research, carried out with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, is published in the journal BMJ Open.