The U.S. is making strides with lower rates of diabetes due to increased education and prevention. On Diabetes Alert Day today, we join in encouraging everyone to check their risk of diabetes and take charge of their health and wellness.
Scott Kapulskey, MD, FAAFP, CAQG, CMD recently joined as the new medical director and primary care physician at our Suncoast PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) clinic and day center. For many years, Dr. Kapulskey has specialized in caring for seniors living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes. In this Q&A, he discusses his approach to helping seniors stay healthy and in their own homes, the risks and complications of diabetes and the ways people with diabetes can manage their health.
Mission of Senior Care
1. What’s your professional background?
I attended Rutgers Medical School, which was connected to a geriatric program and PACE program. I’ve spent most of my career in managed care, geriatric care and primary care. I’m board-certified in geriatrics and family medicine. I’m also a certified medical director with additional expertise in nursing home and assisted living facility care.
2. Why did you choose to work at Suncoast PACE?
PACE combines the best of managed care, geriatric care and primary care for some of the most medically-complicated individuals. It’s a unique program that delivers a broad spectrum of services to participants where and when it’s needed most. Our job is to support these at-risk folks who are living with family or alone at home and to keep them there safely and in good health.
One of the things that impressed me with PACE and Empath Health is the dedication to caring for and about our participants and patients. My experience has been really great. I’ve felt welcomed by our participants and staff. I’m looking forward to making this the premier provider of geriatric care in Pinellas County.
3. What do you like most about your job?
I’ve always loved geriatrics because I get to experience living history of the people I care for.
4. What lessons would you like to share with other care professionals?
Doing no harm is the first step in treatment. History is the most important part of the visit. Reassurance can be a powerful medicine.
5. Who’s at risk for diabetes?
Folks with a family history of diabetes or who are overweight or live sedentary lifestyles are the most common people at risk. Certain ethnic groups are also at risk, including African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Indians among others. Roughly one-third of our PACE participants have diabetes.
6. What are the complications of diabetes?
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness, renal failure and loss of limb in the U.S.
7. What are some challenges of diabetes?
Living with diabetes can be difficult. You need to be aware of your health every day, watch what you eat and see your healthcare practitioner on a regular basis.
8. How can people with diabetes manage their disease in order to live a long, healthy life?
One way people can manage diabetes is to partner with their healthcare provider(s) and come up with a plan that makes sense. Having a team approach to care for diabetics, young and old, will lead to a longer, healthier life. Many behaviors must be addressed, such as a proper diet and exercise.
9. How does diabetes impact older adults?
It can become challenging for the elderly population. They tend to cook for one or two or eat prepared meals or out, as well as might not always have someone at home to care for them. As we age, we can develop low blood sugar, which can cause falls that are devastating.
10. How do you care for and support participants and their families?
Every participant is at the center of care with support for their family members, too. In addition to primary and geriatric care, we have a dietitian who can go to participants’ homes for education, Meals-on-Wheels and a social worker, nurses and other team members who help with care. As diabetes can be inherited, our team works to educate family members to help impact the health of the whole family.
People are living longer and sometimes we deal with multiple chronic illnesses, working to manage the interaction between the diseases and medications. I get to partner with our participants in their care. I listen, educate on what’s available to them and provide treatment according to their goals. As a physician, I need to be thoughtful, caring and sensitive to cultural, sensory and environmental factors. Not everybody hears, senses or learns the same way.
11. What’s your advice for people with a new diabetes diagnosis?
Take ownership early only. Don’t feel guilty; you didn’t do this to yourself. There are lots of great ways to treat it.
12. What can people do to prevent diabetes and other conditions?
We can’t control our genetics but we can control some things in our environment. There are many initiatives we can do to lower our risk of diabetes and other illnesses. Weight control is one part of prevention.