“It’s a toss up between my hearing, my heart, and my hip”: Prioritizing and Accommodating Multiple Morbidities by Vulnerable Older Adults

Nearly three quarters of older adults have multiple morbidities (MM). This study investigated which morbidities older adults prioritize, why, and how they accommodate these conditions, focusing on elders with two or more chronic conditions and low socioeconomic status.

Methods. In-depth interviews were conducted with 41 older adults (most being African American women from the southeastern U.S., with two or more chronic illnesses).

Results. Many participants reported worrying most about their heart disease, diabetes, and disability/mobility problems, and about their synergistic effects. Many worried that MMs might tip them into a downward spiral. Participants spent the most time and money on arthritis and diabetes. Few received help; when they did, relatives assisted with arthritis/mobility, diabetes, and effects of stroke.

Discussion. Enhanced formal care coordination, increased use of technological innovations, and understanding elders’ priorities are necessary to improve self-care/management and quality of life.