Older Adults Need Help Managing Multiple Chronic Conditions

Between 1900 and 2000, life expectancy in the United States increased from 51 to 80 years for women and from 48 to 74 years from men (Population Reference Bureau, 2002). As Americans have increased their years of life, the prevalence of chronic conditions associated with age has also increased. It is estimated that by 2040, almost 160 million people in the US, most of them elderly, will be living with chronic conditions (National Academy on an Aging Society, 1999). Chronic conditions can cause limitations in daily activities, hospitalization, transition to a nursing home, and poor quality of life. However, many people who have chronic conditions lead active, productive lives.

There are several reasons why some older adults with chronic conditions remain independent and active, while others decline into frailty and dependence. First, some chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, may be more disabling or more severe than other conditions. Second, some chronic conditions, such as hypertension, may be controllable with medications. Third, some older adults have the resources to self-manage their chronic conditions so that symptoms are controlled. Thus, in cases where the chronic condition is not itself disabling (if managed) and medications are available (and affordable), the provision of support in self-management of symptoms may allow many older adults to remain in their homes and lead lives that include normal activities.

Older adults need a variety of resources to help them manage chronic conditions, especially when several chronic conditions are present, a common occurrence. Medical help for treatment of chronic disease conditions is available to most older adults through Medicare and Medicaid. In contrast, the care resources needed to manage chronic conditions in day-to-day life are not as readily available. In order to balance behavioral changes, medications, and symptom relief strategies, older adults need knowledge about what to do, the belief that they can achieve success, and family to help. When elders do not have family members close by, additional financial resources may be needed to acquire assistance. Providing emotional support and education to elders and families will require a fundamental change in the American value system, which currently promotes the logical medical treatment of chronic conditions, and ignores the emotional needs of patients and family caregivers who cope with multiple chronic conditions.

If you are 65 and older and need help managing Chronic Conditions please feel free to call us to make an appointment with a Primary Care Doctor today at: (904)513.3240