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1 in 4 Chronically Ill Elderly Lives Alone

Relatives must be encouraged to step in to help with care, researchers say

SUNDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Almost four out of every 10 chronically ill older people in the United States live alone, a finding that highlights the need to teach family members how to take care of their parents and relatives, a new study says.

"Family members have the potential to significantly help many patients with chronic illness manage their health conditions," study co-author Dr. Ann-Marie Rosland, clinical lecturer at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a news release. "However, those family members need more than just information to be successful. We need to teach family members communication skills and provide the tools that they can use to encourage patients to stick to their health regimen."

The study authors examined the results of a national health survey from 2006. They found that 93 percent of chronically ill adults aged 51 and older had adult children. But half of them had kids living more than 10 miles away.

"Even when a spouse is available, the vast majority struggle with their own chronic medical needs and functional limitations," John D. Piette, professor of internal medicine at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System, said in the release.

"Fortunately, most of these people had adult children who could be another source of support for their chronic illness care," he added. "But these relationships are increasingly strained as adult children move farther away from their parents to seek employment or find a more affordable living situation. Distances pose a barrier to the monitoring and frequent support for behavior change that many chronically ill patients need."

The study was published in the March issue of the journal Chronic Illness.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about healthy aging.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, April 13, 2010

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