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Exploring the experiences of older Chinese adults with comorbidities including diabetes: surmounting these challenges in order to live a normal life

Authors Ho HY, Chen MH, Lou MF

Received 30 July 2017

Accepted for publication 15 November 2017

Published 30 January 2018 Volume 2018:12 Pages 193—205

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S147756

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen


Hsiu-Yu Ho,1,2 Mei-Hui Chen,2,3 Meei-Fang Lou1

1School of Nursing, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, 2Department of Nursing, Yuanpei University of Medical Technology, 3National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China

Background: Many people with diabetes have comorbidities, even multimorbidities, which have a far-reaching impact on the older adults, their family, and society. However, little is known of the experience of older adults living with comorbidities that include diabetes.
Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the experience of older adults living with comorbidities including diabetes.
Methods: A qualitative approach was employed. Data were collected from a selected field of 12 patients with diabetes mellitus in a medical center in northern Taiwan. The data were analyzed by Colaizzi’s phenomenological methodology, and four criteria of Lincoln and Guba were used to evaluate the rigor of the study.
Results: The following 5 themes and 14 subthemes were derived: 1) expecting to heal or reduce the symptoms of the disease (trying to alleviate the distress of symptoms and trusting in health practitioners combining the use of Chinese and Western medicines); 2) comparing complex medical treatments (differences in physician practices and presentation, conditionally adhering to medical treatment, and partnering with medical professionals); 3) inconsistent information (inconsistent health information and inconsistent medical advice); 4) impacting on daily life (activities are limited and hobbies cannot be maintained and psychological distress); and 5) weighing the pros and cons (taking the initiative to deal with issues, limiting activity, adjusting mental outlook and pace of life, developing strategies for individual health regimens, and seeking support). Surmounting these challenges in order to live a normal life was explored.
Conclusion: This study found that the experience of older adults living with comorbidities including diabetes was similar to that of a single disease, but the extent was greater than a single disease. The biggest difference is that the elderly think that their most serious problem is not diabetes, but rather, the comorbidities causing life limitations. Therefore, compared to the elderly suffering from a single disease of diabetes, medical professionals not only care about physiological data of the elderly but also pay attention to the impact of comorbidity on their lives.

Keywords: diabetes, comorbidity, multimorbidity, elderly, older adult, life experience

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