Delirium among newly admitted postacute facility patients: prevalence, symptoms, and severity

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2003 May;58(5):M441-5. doi: 10.1093/gerona/58.5.m441.


Background: Delirium may persist for weeks or months, and discharging elderly patients quickly from acute care facilities is not uncommon. Therefore, the adverse impact of delirium on loss of independence may occur in the postacute setting rather than in the hospital. The purpose of this study is to describe the prevalence of delirium, delirium symptoms, and severity assessed at admission to postacute facilities.

Methods: Subjects were recruited from seven Boston-area skilled nursing facilities specializing in postacute care. Assessment instruments included the Mini-Mental Status Exam, Delirium Symptom Interview, Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale, and Confusion Assessment Method (CAM) Diagnostic Algorithm. Delirium status was categorized into four groups: full, two or more symptoms, one symptom, and no delirium. Descriptive statistics were calculated and chi-square analyses and an analysis-of-variance were used to examine delirium characteristics by delirium group.

Results: Among 2158 subjects, approximately 16% had full CAM-defined delirium at admission to the postacute facility. In addition, nearly 13% of the subjects had two or more symptoms of delirium, approximately 40% had one delirium symptom, and 32% had no symptoms of delirium. In a comparison of the group with no symptoms of delirium with that with CAM-defined delirium, there was a significant trend toward (a) older age, (b) lower scores on the Mini-Mental Status Exam, (c) more Delirium Symptom Interview symptoms, and (d) higher Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale Scores.

Conclusions: Results indicate that 16% of admissions to postacute facilities have CAM-defined delirium, and over two thirds had at least one delirium symptom. It is not known whether or not postacute staff have the training necessary to detect or manage delirium. Managing delirium may require different strategies and techniques in a postacute setting, thereby requiring further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities