Chronic disease and the elderly

(Most responsible persons: Drs. Larry Erlick and Jawad Khokhar)

Quality of life is an important consideration in medical decisions involving elderly patients and a clinical outcome measure of health care. Elderly outpatients (N = 126) with five common chronic diseases (arthritis, ischemic heart disease, chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer) and their physicians were interviewed to better characterize patient quality of life. Patients generally perceived their quality of life to be slightly worse than “good, no major complaints” in each chronic disease.

Physicians' ratings were generally worse than and only weakly associated with the patients' ratings of quality of life in each chronic disease. Significant independent correlates of patients' ratings of quality of life included the patients' perceptions of their health, interpersonal relationships, and finances. These results suggest that quality of life in elderly outpatients with chronic disease is a multidimensional construct involving health, as well as social and other factors. Physicians may misunderstand patients' perceptions of their quality of life.