Introduction: Although older individuals are more prone to hypoglycaemia, it is not known if they have sufficient understanding of the risks of hypoglycaemia or the factors that predispose to it. We evaluated the effectiveness of hypoglycaemia education and examined the factors that increased susceptibility to hypoglycaemia among older people with diabetes.
Methods: Forty-five patients (male/female) aged >65 years and known to have diabetes were identified through outpatient clinics at a secondary care hospital. Information relating to education received, awareness of hypoglycaemia and associated risk factors was collected using a standard questionnaire. Additionally, data regarding demographics, treatment regimes, patient attitudes, hypoglycaemic awareness and risks and barriers to self-management of diabetes was collected. Patients were categorised as low, moderate and high risk based on their responses. Independent sample t-tests and Analysis of Variance were carried out to identify factors contributing to high hypoglycaemic risk.
Results: Overall, 70% of the patients reported receiving education about hypoglycaemia from health professionals and 95% of them reported good understanding of hypoglycaemia and were able to self-test. Proportion of women receiving education was, however, lower than men (52% women versus 88% men). Compared with men, women were less likely to recognise (59 versus 73%), or act appropriately to a hypoglycaemic episode (59 versus 78%). The mean number of hypoglycaemic episodes per year (41 versus 12) and the duration of hypoglycaemia (9.9 versus 6.3 min) was also greater among women compared with men. The duration of diabetes (P = 0.018), female gender, type 1 diabetes (0.002) and lack awareness of medications causing hypos (P = 0.006) were strong predictors of hypoglycaemia risk.
Conclusions: There are significant gaps in education around hypoglycaemia in older people with diabetes. Women, people with longer duration and type 1 diabetes in particular, need additional attention and future educational initiatives need to address these issues.