Objective: To determine functional balance abilities of older adults with diabetes, and identify determinants of these abilities.
Methods: Eighty diabetic and 67 healthy non-diabetic community-dwelling older adults completed the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) and questionnaires about their medical and fall histories. Participants were also assessed for vision, plantar sensitivity, muscle strength, and functional balance, including Functional Reach (FR), Five Times Sit-to-Stand (FTSTS), and 180° turn (TURN). In addition to between-group comparisons, hierarchical regression analysis was conducted to identify the independent determinants for each of the individual balance tasks for the diabetes and control group separately.
Results: The diabetes group had significantly greater body mass index, higher rate of cardiac disease, and poorer plantar sensitivity, mental status, grip and lower limb strength. The diabetes group performed significantly poorer in FTSTS and TURN (both p<0.001), but not FR (p = 0.108). The significant determinants for the balance tasks varied substantially between tasks and groups. For the diabetes group, they included visual and plantar sensitivity and MMSE for FR (R2 = 0.39), ankle dorsiflexion strength for FTSTS (R2 = 0.377), and plantar sensitivity, knee extension strength and MMSE for TURN (R2 = 0.391). For the control group, knee extension strength emerged as the common and only significant determinant and only explained approximately 10% of the variance for FR and TURN.
Conclusions: Impairments in functional balance abilities were evident for older adults with diabetes. Their underpinning functional limitations were different for different tasks and were also different from those of the control group. Screening of functional balance and mental status, lower limb strength and sensory function, and interventions to address these impairments may be important to maintain function, independence and safety for older clients with diabetes.