Variation in Treatment Preferences and Care Goals Among Older Patients with Diabetes and Their Physicians

Diabetes is a disease that particularly challenges the elderly in the United States. This study aims to describe the preferences of older patients with diabetes regarding their willingness to accept certain treatment regimens.

Approximately 13 percent of people aged 60 years or older have been diagnosed with diabetes and approximately 6 percent are undiagnosed. Until recently, scant attention has been paid to whether care of older people with diabetes should differ from care given to younger persons, despite the fact that the elderly population may have competing health issues and shorter life expectancies, which may affect how they view treatments. The final study sample consisted of 473 diabetic patients ages 65 or older and their treating physicians (64) who also were surveyed to help understand their treatment goals.

Key Findings:

  • Patients who expected to live longer were more likely to accept complications of certain treatment regimens.
  • There was an association between patients' income being greater than $50,000 per year with greater acceptance of diabetic complications and treatment approaches.
  • Physicians tended to recommend more aggressive treatments in patients with longer life expectancies.

The results reveal that older patients vary greatly in their preferences regarding diabetic treatments. Acknowledging patient preferences may improve the quality of treatment decisions.