Group education helpful for older diabetes patients

Little research has been done on what types of lifestyle treatment modalities are best for older diabetics.

And doctors often hesitate to refer these patients to group education classes, believing they will probably need more one-on-one attention.

Which approach is best?

However, a new study that was published in Diabetes Care earlier this month suggests that "self-management" interventions--including group education classes focused on food, exercise or medication--can benefit older diabetics just as much as they do younger patients.

The study aimed to address questions brought up in a consensus statement from the American Diabetes Association and the American Geriatrics Society about what type of educational interventions best work for middle-age and older adult diabetics.

Details of the study

The study included 222 adults, ages 18-75. All patients had diabetes for at least two years, and all were in good health with the exception of their ability to manage diabetes well.

Participants were divided into a younger group and an older group, and then they were randomly assigned to one of three interventions: a "highly structured" educational group setting, a less rigorous educational group or a group that employed one-on-one sessions between patient and counselor.

At checkpoints of three, six and 12 months, no differences were found between the two groups in terms of diabetes improvement--and both the younger and older groups had equally improved hemoglobin levels at these three checkpoints.

In the second, less structured education group, older participants' diabetes management improvement was significantly higher than in the younger group.

Strength in numbers

Group settings can help older patients learn from one another, says study author Dr. Katie Weinger, by asking questions and sharing experiences. She also says that older patients might be more willing to commit to regular attendance than younger people.

Sandra D. Burke, past president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, says that education programs for older diabetics should be a resource used more often. Burke told Medscape Medical News:

"This study demonstrates there is a clear benefit to structured diabetes education in the older adult population. I would suggest there is an opportunity for primary-care providers to improve the health of their older adult patients with diabetes by partnering with diabetes educators."

Source: Medscape Medical News

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