insulin dependent diabetic with dementia


Registered User
Oct 8, 2005
I help to look after my 82 year old aunt who has mild dementia and diabetes requiring insulin. She has many hypo's due to giving herself too much insulin. The district nurses are reluctant to help-they want to see her in a home. She is also reluctant to have any help as she has no insight into her problems and thiks she can act like she did when she was 20. We have managed to find a carer who will go in twice as day to see my aunt eats but my aunt often leave the key in the door and carers can't get in. Any ideas about help with giving insulin when district nurses refuse to get involved and are there any front door locks that can be opened from the outside when a key is left in the lock inside? Help please were are desparate. Susan


Registered User
Mar 23, 2005
Hi Susan,

Welcome to Talking Point.

Your situation sounds very difficult. I can only make a few comments based on my experiences with my husband who is an insulin-dependent diabetic (it is his father who has AD, but is not diabetic ).

I'm sure that I don't need to tell you that hypo's are very serious, potentially life-threatening events. It is also possible that as your aunt's dementia has affected her ability to monitor her insulin/food, it might also impair her ability to recognise the symptoms of a hypo and/or remember what to do about it.

It's probably safe to say that a pattern of regular hypos will not be helping your aunt's brain to function. The British Diabetic Association has a paper (in Word document format) exploring the link between diabetes and cognitive funtion:

One key passge is:

Very severe, and especially severe and prolonged, hypoglycaemia can lead to permanent brain damage. If brain cells are deprived of their glucose supply for long enough then they will die and, as brain cells are not replaced in adult life, the loss of cells will be permanent. This sounds dramatic but must be seen against the background of the natural loss of hundreds of brain cells every day through normal ageing processes.

If, however, hypoglycaemia is very severe, such as can result from the deliberate or malicious injection of a large insulin overdose, and especially if alcohol is also taken, major damage can occur to very large numbers of brain cells and produce obvious brain damage and loss of function. This may take many forms including signs of localised brain damage like a stroke, problems with memory and thought processes producing a picture like dementia or, at its most severe, major brain damage leading to coma and even death.

I'm fairly sure that the key/lock problem in itself is "solvable", you could visit a locksmiths and see what advice they have to offer.

Personally, I would be very concerned about someone with insulin-dependent diabetes and dementia living alone. I don't know if there are any patterns to your aunt's hypo's? The time where we have found the risk to be greatest is overnight - when my husband hasn't had enough carbohydrate before bedtime. If you had someone coming in at those key times, perhaps the risk could be minimised for now.

The problem may come in time that your aunt would not accept the help of, what seemed to her, an unknown person. Trying to do a blood sugar check, lancet in hand, on an frightened and confused person could be a dangerous and difficult thing to do.

Sorry - I'm not trying to be unecessarily gloomy, just realistic and pragmatic. Your aunt is lucky to have someone like you looking out for her.

Take care,