Aim. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between heart failure and specific cognitive abilities in octogenarians with regard to level and change over time.
Background. Cognitive impairment is influenced by many factors, and the impact of heart failure is debated. Intact cognitive ability is crucial for successful self-care in patients with heart failure. Middle-aged patients with heart failure seem to have an increased risk of cognitive impairment. No studies have examined the association between heart failure and longitudinal cognitive changes in octogenarians (individuals 80 years and older).
Design. A prospective longitudinal design.
Methods. Cognitive tests were carried out five times (1991–2002) in 702 octogenarians from the Swedish Twin Registry, including same-sex twin pairs. The test battery included the measurement of processing speed, visuospatial ability, short-term, episodic and semantic memory. Latent growth curve modelling was employed to measure change and performance over time and compares the group diagnosed with heart failure to individuals without a heart failure diagnosis.
Results. At baseline, the participants’ mean age was 83·5 years, 67% were women and 13% suffered from heart failure. Individuals diagnosed with heart failure scored significantly lower in spatial abilities and episodic memory than participants not diagnosed with heart failure. Moreover, measures of episodic memory declined more over time in individuals diagnosed with heart failure. There were no significant differences between the groups in other cognitive tests.
Conclusion. Spatial problems and episodic memory have implications for everyday life. This might contribute to decreased adherence to prescribed therapy and self-care management and lead to socio-behavioural problems because of an impaired capacity to drive, read and write.
Relevance to clinical practice. Nurses should take into account in their assessment that cognitive impairment may restrain elderly heart failure patient’s ability to make decisions and perform self-care actions. Patient education strategies should also be adapted to cognitive ability.