Managing older adults with diabetes


  • Theresa A. Hainer FNP, MSN, CDE

    (Certified Diabetes Educator), Corresponding author
    1. Diabetes, Endocrine and Nutrition Center, Eastern Maine Medical Center, Bangor, Maine
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Theresa A. Hainer, FNP, MSN, CDE, Diabetes, Endocrine and Nutrition Center, Eastern Maine Medical Center, PO Box 562, Bangor, ME 04402. Tel: 207 223 4715 (home), 207 973 8307 (office); Fax: 207 973 7424; E-mail:,


Purpose: To review special considerations in the management of adults 65 years of age and older with diabetes mellitus (DM) with particular attention to initiation of insulin in the management of type 2 DM (DM2), Medicare eligibility for insulin pump therapy, and intensive insulin therapy in both type 1 DM (DM1) and DM2 in older adults.

Data sources: American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, selected research articles, textbooks, and Internet sources.

Conclusions: American Diabetes Association, American Association of Diabetes Educators, and American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist acknowledge that no long-term studies have been conducted in older adults with DM. Furthermore, these groups as well as the American Geriatric Society conclude that a person’s functional capacity and not age should determine the treatment modality most beneficial in each situation.

Implications for practice: Management of diabetes in the older adult is a common clinical scenario for primary care providers (PCPs). Treatment strategies follow a continuum over time from lifestyle modification to intensive management. Intensive insulin therapy, through the use of either multiple daily injections or continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion using insulin pumps, has demonstrated benefit in both DM1 and DM2; however, there is evidence that PCPs are reluctant to initiate insulin. Moreover, in the management of older adults with diabetes, evidence-based outcomes regarding intensive management are lacking. Further studies are needed.