Diabetes Self-care among a Multiethnic Sample of Older Adults

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Type 2 diabetes constitutes a leading and increasing cause of morbidity and mortality among older adults, particularly African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and rural dwellers. To understand diabetes self-care, an essential determinant of diabetic and overall health outcomes, 80 middle aged and older adults from these four disproportionately affected racial/ethnic/residential groups engaged in in-depth interviews, focusing on approaches to and explanations for diabetes self-care. Certain self-care activities (medication-taking, diet, foot care) were performed regularly while others (blood glucose monitoring, exercise) were practiced less frequently. Despite research suggestions to the contrary, only one in four elders used unconventional diabetes therapies, and only one-third listed someone other than a health care provider as a primary information source. Few self-care differences emerged according to race/ethnicity/residence, perhaps because of the influential and common circumstance of low income. Thematic analyses suggest that inadequate resources, perceived efficacy of medication, great respect for biomedical authority, and lack of familiarity with and concerns about unconventional therapies are influential in establishing these patterns of self-care. We discuss the similarity of self-care practices and perspectives irrespective of race/ethnicity/residence and the predominance of biomedical acceptability.

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