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Disabled Elderly Say They Want Dignity, Control

SATURDAY Feb. 18, 2012 -- Two factors -- a sense of dignity and a sense of control -- are critical to quality of life for disabled elderly people, according to a new study that also found that most disabled seniors rate their quality of life as "fair to very good."

The two factors were emphasized by 62 disabled seniors (white, black, Hispanic, and Chinese American) who were interviewed by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

"By 'control,' these elders mean a sense of autonomy in their activities of daily living," lead author Dr. Jennifer King, who was a medical student at the UCSF School of Medicine at the time of the study, said in a UCSF news release.

"Because of disability, not all of them are able do to all activities on their own, but they want to feel they have some say in how those activities progress throughout the day," she explained.

When the study participants were asked to rate their quality of life, 87 percent responded "fair to very good," which was in the middle of the five-point scale that ranged from "excellent" to "poor."

"These folks are not doing badly," senior investigator Dr. Alexander Smith, a palliative medicine doctor at SFVAMC, said in the news release. "Their quality of life, as they rate it, is definitely higher than some might assume it would be for older people with disabilities."

The study was published online Jan. 31 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

"As the number of elders from diverse backgrounds with late life disability increases, we need to learn how to assess their quality of life, and develop an assessment scale that will adequately reflect what they tell us is important," King said. "With those tools, we can then create interventions to improve their quality of life."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers resources about health and aging.

Posted: February 2012


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