Original Research

Impact and recognition of cognitive impairment among hospitalized elders




Older adults are predisposed to developing cognitive deficits. This increases their vulnerability for adverse health outcomes when hospitalized.


To determine the prevalence and impact of cognitive impairment (CI) among hospitalized elders based on recognition by lCD‐coding versus screening done on admission.


Observational cohort study.


Urban public hospital in Indianapolis.


997 patients age 65 and older admitted to medical services between July 2006 and March 2008.


Impact of CI in terms of length of stay, survival, quality of care and prescribing practices. Cognition was assessed by the Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire (SPMSQ).


424 patients (43%) were cognitively impaired. Of those 424 patients with CI, 61% had not been recognized by ICD‐9 coding. Those unrecognized were younger (mean age 76.1 vs. 79.1, P <0.001); had more comorbidity (mean Charlson index of 2.3 vs.1.9, P = 0.03), had less cognitive deficit (mean SPMSQ 6.3 vs. 3.4, P < 0.001). Among elders with CI, 163 (38%) had at least one day of delirium during their hospital course. Patients with delirium stayed longer in the hospital (9.2 days vs. 5.9, P < 0.001); were more likely to be discharged into institutional settings (75% vs. 31%, P < 0.001) and more likely to receive tethers during their care (89% vs. 69%, P < 0.001), and had higher mortality (9% vs. 4%, P = 0.09).


Cognitive impairment, while common in hospitalized elders, is under‐recognized, impacts care, and increases risk for adverse health outcomes. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2010;5:69–75. © 2010 Society of Hospital Medicine.