Functional decline and recovery of activities of daily living in hospitalized, disabled older women: the Women's Health and Aging Study I

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Oct;57(10):1757-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2009.02455.x. Epub 2009 Aug 20.


Objectives: To determine, in disabled, older, community-dwelling women who were hospitalized, the rates and predictors of functional decline, the probability and time course of subsequent functional recovery, and predictors of functional recovery.

Design: Population-based observational cohort.

Setting: Woman's Health and Aging Study.

Participants: A subset of the 1,002 moderately to severely disabled community-dwelling older women who were hospitalized over 3 years (N=457).

Measurements: Functional decline and complete and partial recovery were defined using a 0 to 6 scale of dependencies in activities of daily living (ADLs) evaluated every 6 months over 3 years. Complete recovery was defined as returning to baseline function (function at visit immediately preceding hospitalization) after functional decline; partial recovery was defined as any improvement in the ADL scale after functional decline. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to determine predictors of functional decline. Kaplan-Meier curves estimate the proportions recovering as a function of time since hospitalization. Discrete-time proportional hazards models regress the time-to-recovery hazards on the predictor variables.

Results: Thirty-three percent of hospitalized women experienced functional decline at the first visit after hospitalization. Frailty, longer length of stay, and higher education were associated with functional decline. Fifty percent fully recovered over the subsequent 30 months, with 33% recovering within 6 months and an additional 14% over the following 6 months. Younger women were more likely to recover (aged 80 to 70, hazard ratio=0.39, 95% confidence interval=0.24-0.64).

Conclusion: Although most recovery of function occurs by 6 months after the first visit after a hospitalization, a substantial proportion of disabled community-dwelling women recover over the following 2 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Recovery of Function*