Living with diabetes mellitus: The experience of Native American Indians

Parker, Judy Goforth
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The domain of this study was the lived experience of Native American Indians with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). The incidence of NIDDM has increased to the point of being epidemic in proportion. Prior to this study, the experiences of Native Americans with NIDDM was unrecorded. The purpose of this study was to record those lived experiences described by Native American Indians with NIDDM.

Using a phenomenological approach, the study questioned: What is the lived experience of Native American Indians with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus?

A purposive sample of ten American Indians who had had NIDDM for a period of at least five years participated in unstructured interviews. The descriptions were analyzed using Giorgi's (1978) procedure. Individual units were identified in search for the essence of the lived experience of Native Americans with NIDDM. Units were divided into six categories with focal meanings added for clarification. The insights gained were synthesized into descriptive structures.

Findings revealed that there are characteristic responses to life as lived with NIDDM. One response was the reaction of Native Americans to the diagnosis of NIDDM. Choices made to adapt to the diagnosis of NIDDM included decisions to delay, modify, or comply with recommended health maintenance regimes. There were also characteristic responses to loss of health. These responses were triggered by the participant's own physical deterioration of health as well as the observation of others. Classic to the responses in this category were the comments concerning the physiologic changes brought about by NIDDM.

Due to strong cultural ties the participants also identified with other Indians with NIDDM. The culture of the Native American is threatened by NIDDM. With this threat was the accompanying fear that was associated with the diagnosis of NIDDM. Fears were triggered by physiologic effects of NIDDM as well as the vast number of Native Americans with NIDDM. With diagnosis of NIDDM, participants described the peace that they felt, though it might be fleeting at times. Unrecognized by themselves was the grief that could be perceived through the transcriptions as they were brought together as a whole unit for analysis.

Minority and ethnic groups, Sociology, Nursing, Psychology, Diabetes, Native North Americans, Native American studies, Ethnic studies, Health and environmental sciences