BACKGROUND: New or increased impairments may develop several decades after an acute poliomyelitis infection. These new symptoms, commonly referred to as late effects of polio (LEoP), are characterised by muscular weakness and fatigue, generalised fatigue, pain at rest or during activities and cold intolerance. Growing older with LEoP may lead to increased activity limitations and participation restrictions, but there is limited knowledge of how these persons perceive the practical and psychological consequences of ageing with LEoP and what strategies they use in daily life. The aim of this qualitative study was therefore to explore how ageing people with LEoP perceive the their situation and what strategies they use for managing daily life.
METHODS: Seven women and seven men (mean age 70 years) were interviewed. They all had a confirmed history of acute poliomyelitis and new impairments after a stable period of at least 15 years. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using systematic text condensation.
RESULTS: The latent analysis resulted in three categories 'Various consequences of ageing with LEoP', 'Limitations in everyday activities and participation restrictions', and 'Strategies for managing daily life when ageing with LEoP' and 12 subcategories. The new impairments led to decreased physical and mental health. The participants perceived difficulties in performing everyday activities such as managing work, doing chores, partaking in recreational activities and participating in social events, thereby experiencing emotional and psychological distress. They managed to find strategies that mitigated their worries and upheld their self-confidence, for example finding practical solutions, making social comparisons, minimising, and avoidance.
CONCLUSION: Ageing with LEoP affected daily life to a great extent. The participants experienced considerable impact of the new and increased impairments on their life situation. Consequently, their ability to participate in various social activities also became restricted. Social comparisons and practical solutions are strategies that facilitate adaptation and acceptance of the new situation due to LEoP. This emphasises the need to design rehabilitation interventions that focus on coping, empowerment and self-management for people ageing with LEoP.
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