Winkelman Lecture
Elderly with diabetes face treatment challenges

Not all elderly patients with diabetes are the same, and treatment involves more than controlling sugar levels in one's blood, says Dr. Jeffrey Halter, director of the Geriatrics Center and Institute of Gerontology.
(Photo courtesy Geriatrics Center)

"The issues are increasingly challenging as patients have more diabetes complications and other co-existing health problems," says Halter, professor of internal medicine and chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine. "Many have multiple health problems that require a team approach to care."

Halter will discuss diabetes in elderly people during the Winkelman Lecture at 3 p.m. March 4 in the School of Social Work. His talk is titled "Diabetes in the Heterogeneous Geriatric Population: Challenges and Opportunities."

Elderly people with diabetes face extremely different challenges, says Halter, who has written more than 200 research papers and book chapters on diabetes in the aging population. One individual may be functional, happy and not taking any medications whereas another person may be taking more than 10 different medications, disabled and living in a nursing home.

"Diabetes among elder people is heterogeneous, so you can't apply the same treatment approach for everyone," he says.

Treatment, however, does not end with taking prescribed medications. Patients must perform preventive health measures to reduce vascular disease risks, such as cigarette use, high cholesterol and obesity, Halter says.

Preventive measures include eating a healthy diet and regular exercise, but this lifestyle change may be difficult for unmotivated elderly persons. "This isn't about trying to lose weight just to be skinny, but being on a program to lose a little weight to control diabetes. It can work," he says.

The Winkelman Lecture Series is made possible by a donation to the School of Social Work from the Winkelman brothers — Stanley, John, Frederick and Henry — in memory of their parents, Leon and Josephine Winkelman. The lecture provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of emerging knowledge from the social and biological sciences and the helping professions.