One in four adults over the age of 25 years are living with diabetes or what is known as pre-diabetes and in 2016, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in Australia. It is therefore, no surprise that publically accessible diabetes resources commonly highlight the potential negatives associated with a diagnosis of diabetes such as neurological and vascular complications, amputation, and higher rates of depression. What is less commonly highlighted, however, is that half of people diagnosed with diabetes report coping well and 72% are rarely restricted in their daily activities.
Voluntary response sampling was used to recruit 50 participants (31 female; 19 male; 71.78±9.64 years) to a foot health promotion event at the Charles Sturt University Community Engagement and Wellness Centre. Student practitioners completed basic neurovascular assessments to ascertain each participant’s arterial, venous and neurological status. Participants also completed the Foot Health Status Questionnaire. With the exception of age, absolute toe pressure, and monofilament results, data was categorical in nature. Descriptive statistics have been used to identify themes specific to those participants with diabetes.
Thirteen percent of participants reported they were currently managing diabetes. This is below the 16.6% expected for Australians in the 65-74 years age range, however, the sample was representative of the local over-55 population. Of those participants with diabetes, 50% indicated that their feet did not restrict work activities and 67% were not limited in their ability to climb stairs, or in showering and dressing. Additionally, 83% reported a positive self-rating of health, and rarely or never feeling worn out.
The findings of this study indicate that many older people living with diabetes are feeling healthy and are not restricted by their diagnosis. It is known that positive messaging in public health campaigns is more effective in changing behaviour, than reinforcing negative information. Despite the need to educate clients about the risks associated with poorly controlled diabetes, clinicians also have a key role in highlighting the benefits of positive behavioural change and improving health literacy to enhance the health and wellbeing of clients.