Diabetics and Hospice Treatment: Maybe Not the Best Idea, Says Study

Hypoglycemia in Hospice Patients: Study Shows Danger for Diabetics

In many cases, patients with diabetes will be in need of end-of-life care — but how good is diabetes management in palliative care? It may surprise you to know that a new study has found an alarming rate of hypoglycemia in hospice patients.

A Harvard-led study published in JAMA found that hospice patients with type 2 diabetes may be treated too aggressively for blood sugar control, leading to a high number of hypoglycemia cases among them. Raising the question: is avoiding hypoglycemia more important than strict blood sugar control in hospice diabetes management?

Study Reveals Hypoglycemia in Hospice Patients

In the study, researchers analyzed data on nearly 20,000 people, 65 and older with type 2 diabetes, living in nursing homes and receiving hospice care. Over the course of the six-month study, blood sugar levels were checked an average of 1.7 times a day for people on insulin and 0.6 times a day for those who weren’t given insulin, according to the report.

Surprisingly, about one in nine people experienced dangerously low blood sugar episodes, known as hypoglycemia, which can cause weakness, sweating, confusion, shakiness and dizziness. But, among those treated with insulin, about one in three had low blood sugar episodes.

Which means, about 18 percent of hospice patients with type 2 diabetes experienced hypoglycemia (blood sugar levels under 70 milligrams per deciliter ) within 180 days of admission to their nursing homes.

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