Individualizing the care of older heart failure patients

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The heart failure epidemic is driven mainly by population aging and the improving survival of patients with cardiovascular risk factors. Aging heart failure patients are affected by multiple concurrent comorbidities and geriatric syndromes, the most important of which are frailty and cognitive impairment. The purpose of this review is to provide clinicians with practical advice on how to individualize the care of older heart failure patients.

Recent findings

Frailty and cognitive impairment are common in older heart failure patients. Frailty is increasingly recognized as a key risk factor for functional decline, health service utilization and mortality in aging heart failure patients. Similarly, cognitive impairment impairs patients’ ability for self-care and leads to adverse outcomes. Simple and efficient instruments exist to screen for these conditions. Heart failure patients who are frail or cognitively impaired are best looked after in a disease management setting that is deployed in a more integrated healthcare system with access to specialized geriatric consultants. Optimal care planning requires knowledge of these conditions as well as patient and caregiver engagement.

Summary

Frailty and cognitive impairment are central features of the heart failure syndrome in aging patients and should be routinely considered in assessment and care planning.

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