Self-care and assistance from others in coping with functional status limitations among a national sample of older adults.
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Using data from the first wave of a new longitudinal data set collected in the late fall and winter of 1990-1991, the National Survey of Self-Care and Aging (NSSCA), we examined older adults' self-care practices in coping with functional status limitations based on in-person interviews with a national probability sample of 3,485 noninstitutionalized adults aged 65 or older selected from Medicare beneficiary files. A composite score of functional status was calculated to reflect the presence and severity of disability in three dimensions: basic, mobility, and instrumental activities of daily living. Three types of self-care coping strategies were defined: use of equipment or devices, changes in behavior, and modifications in one's environment. National estimates of self-care practices, assistance from others, and functional status measures were presented. Data revealed that the likelihood of engaging in self-care coping strategies increased as the severity of disability increased, except among the most severely disabled. Generally, those receiving assistance from others were more likely to engage in self-care activities, suggesting that receiving assistance supplements, rather than supplants, self-care coping strategies.