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Social, Psychological Factors Influence Elderly Self-Care

Physical issues aren't the only barrier for patients with multiple disease conditions

MONDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The physical functioning and self-management abilities of elderly people with multiple diseases is influenced by psychosocial factors as well as by their physical condition, researchers report in the September/October issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Elizabeth A Bayliss, M.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Clinical Research Unit in Denver, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey with 352 seniors aged 65 and older. All were diagnosed with diabetes, depression and osteoarthritis, among other conditions. On average, participants reported 8.7 chronic diseases.

Barriers to self-management that were significantly associated with lower perceived health status included less knowledge of medical conditions, less social activity, money problems and male sex. Potential barriers to self-management that were significantly associated with lower levels of physical function included lower income, persistent depression and higher levels of patient-clinician communication, a finding that suggests patients with greater morbidity see their physicians more frequently.

"Best care of this population should extend beyond management of medical diseases to address important psychosocial factors -- with the goal of enhancing self-management support," the authors conclude. "The challenges for clinicians are to identify the individual needs of such patients, to have systematic approaches in place to match these needs with resources, and to be alert to the shifting priorities of this population so that there is periodic reassessment of needs."

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