Self-care difficulties and reliance on support among vulnerable middle-aged and older adults with chronic conditions: A cross-sectional study


Objectives Chronic conditions are pervasive among middle-aged and older adults. This study identified: (1) factors associated with participants reporting difficulties self-managing their chronic condition(s); and (2) factors associated with participants’ reliance on external sources for ongoing help and support to improve their health and manage their health conditions. Study design Cross-sectional data were collected using the National Council on Aging Chronic Care Survey, a nationally representative telephone survey of adults aged 45 years and older with at least one chronic condition. Main outcome measures Self-care difficulties among middle-aged and older adults with one or more chronic conditions and factors associated with reliance on ongoing help and support were examined. Results Among 731 middle-aged and older adults with one or more chronic conditions, 31% of participants reported their health condition(s) made it difficult for them to care for themselves. Participants who were Hispanic (OR = 3.08, P = 0.009), had three or more chronic conditions (OR = 3.05, P < 0.001), took more medications daily (OR = 1.07, P = 0.046), and experienced certain healthcare-related frustrations (P ≤ 0.023) were more likely to report difficulties self-managing their chronic condition(s). Participants relied on healthcare providers (40%), friends/relatives (20%), internet (9%), people with similar problems (6%), and community groups (3%) for help and support. Reliance on sources of support varied with participants’ sociodemographic factors as well as healthcare and medication use. Conclusions Simultaneously considering patients’ disease profiles, patient characteristics, difficulties managing their chronic conditions at home, and interactions with the healthcare system can inform tailored approaches and strategies to enhance patient education and resource identification, and can support service linkages.

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