Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Older women and chronic illness: Transitioning and learning to live with diabetes

     The number of people with chronic conditions continues to grow; yet research often focuses on the medical aspects of care rather than the experiences of individuals living with a chronic illness. My article "Older women and chronic illness: Transitioning and learning to live with diabetes" contributes to a more profound understanding of the transition period for people with chronic illnesses. This is important for many reasons. It can, of course, help people and families to better cope with the transition period, but it might also help care providers to better understand and improve vital aspects of care for people with chronic conditions.

     Storytelling allowed us to invite participants and their families to talk about their experiences. We asked each woman to tell us about her diabetes diagnosis story.  In listening to their stories we were able to follow the participants’ daily lives and to understand the major changes their chronic illnesses made to their lives.
     In this study, we observed transition or ‘movement’ over the twelve months after each woman’s diagnosis. We found an interesting pattern regarding the behaviours of the newly diagnosed women over the course of the study. When participants were first diagnosed with diabetes she was ‘warned’ about complications should she not adhere to a new lifestyle, but there were no immediate physical ramifications. Participants’ first efforts after diagnosis was to regain some control by gathering as much information as possible. Lifestyle changes were dependent on individual readiness and there was variation between participants.  We found that transitional processes require time so that people could gradually disengage from old habits and behaviours.

     We are looking forward to your thoughts on this research. If you have experienced a chronic illness, how does your experience compare to the experiences of the women described in this study?

L to R: Tina Koch, Fatemah Adili, and Isabel Higgins

Free access to this new article in Action Research Journal is available free for 30 days here. We'd love to engage in conversation with you about your response to this article.

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