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Illness Representation and Self-Care Ability in Older Adults with Chronic Disease


Chronic illness affects >50% of adults in the United States and accounts for >80% of healthcare spending. The purpose of this study was to determine whether beliefs about one's chronic disease (illness representation) are associated with self-care activation, emergency department (ED) visits, or hospitalizations. Using a cross-sectional design, we recruited older adults with heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic kidney disease. The Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R) measured perceptions about disease. The Patient Activation Measure measured self-care activation. ED visits and hospitalizations were measured by self-report. IPQ-R scores were analyzed using latent profile analysis to identify subgroups. Participants included 187 adults (mean age 65 years, 54% female, 74% Black). We found three subgroups (stable, overwhelmed, and confident). Groups did not differ demographically or by disease. The stable group (few consequences, non-fluctuating pattern) had the fewest hospitalizations. The overwhelmed group (many consequences, fluctuating pattern, high negative emotion) had high hospitalizations and low self-care ability. The confident group (high disease control, well-understood) had the highest self-care ability, but also high hospitalizations. ED visits did not differ by group. We found three subgroups that differ in their illness representation and health outcomes. Findings suggest that assessing patients' illness representations may have important implications for subgroup-specific interventions.

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