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Cognitive Correlates of Functional Performance in Older Adults: Comparison of Self-Report, Direct Observation, and Performance-Based Measures

  • Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe (a1), Carolyn Parsey (a1) and Diane J. Cook (a2)

Neuropsychologists are often asked to answer questions about the effects of cognitive deficits on everyday functioning. This study examined the relationship between and the cognitive correlates of self-report, performance-based, and direct observation measures commonly used as proxy measures for everyday functioning. Participants were 88 community-dwelling, cognitively healthy older adults (age 50–86 years). Participants completed standardized neuropsychological tests and questionnaires, and performed eight activities of daily living (e.g., water plants, fill a medication dispenser) while under direct observation in a campus apartment. All proxy measures of everyday function were sensitive to the effects of healthy cognitive aging. After controlling for age, cognitive predictors explained a unique amount of the variance for only the performance-based behavioral simulation measure (i.e., Revised Observed Tasks of Daily Living). The self-report instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) and the performance-based everyday problem-solving test (i.e., EPT) did not correlate with each other; however, both were unique predictors of the direct observation measure. These findings suggest that neuropsychologists must be cautious in making predictions about the quality of everyday activity completion in cognitively healthy older adults from specific cognitive functions. The findings further suggest that a self-report of IADLs and the performance-based EPT may be useful measures for assessing everyday functional status in cognitively healthy older adults. (JINS, 2011, 17, 853–864)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe, Department of Psychology, Washington State University, P.O. Box 644820, Pullman, WA 99164-4820. E-mail:
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