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Evaluation of the diagnosis and management of cognitive impairment in long-term care.

Barton C, Miller B, Yaffe K. Evaluation of the diagnosis and management of cognitive impairment in long-term care. Alzheimer disease and associated disorders. 2003 Apr 1; 17(2):72-6.

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The objective was to determine the prevalence of screening for cognitive impairment and its effect on diagnosis and management of cognitive impairment in a long-term care setting, especially in comparison to depressive and behavioral symptoms. The study was a prospective cohort study of medical records of 60 patients admitted to the 120 bed Veterans Administration Nursing Home in San Francisco. Screening was determined by documented results on the Mini-Mental Status Examination, Geriatric Depression Scale, and Minimum Data Set. Diagnosis and management were determined by review of medical records for provider documentation. Strategies for management were broad, including interventions such as pharmacological therapy, education, behavioral strategies, or caregiver interventions. Screening was conducted routinely for cognitive impairment (95%), depressive symptoms (95%), and behavioral symptoms (85%). Cognitive status was uncertain in 8 patients; 23 (44%) met criteria for cognitive impairment. Twelve (52%) had a differential diagnosis of cognitive impairment and 11 (48%) had evidence of strategies for management. Depressive and behavioral symptoms were equally or almost as common as cognitive impairment (44% and 25%, respectively), but evidence of a management plan was more frequently present (80% and 100%; p = 0.002 vs. with cognitive impairment). Although depressive and behavioral symptoms were frequently diagnosed and interventions initiated, the diagnosis and management of cognitive impairment were often imprecise or absent. Further research is needed to identify barriers to diagnosis and management so that greater numbers of patients can benefit from recommended strategies.

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