Background: Impairment in activities of daily living is a major burden to both patients and caregivers. Mild impairment in instrumental activities of daily living is often seen at the stage of mild cognitive impairment. The field of Alzheimer's disease is moving toward earlier diagnosis and intervention and more sensitive and ecologically valid assessments of instrumental or complex activities of daily living are needed. The Harvard Automated Phone Task, a novel performance-based activities of daily living instrument, has the potential to fill this gap.
Objective: To further validate the Harvard Automated Phone Task by assessing its longitudinal relationship to global cognition and specific cognitive domains in clinically normal elderly and individuals with mild cognitive impairment.
Design: In a longitudinal study, the Harvard Automated Phone Task was associated with cognitive measures using mixed effects models. The Harvard Automated Phone Task's ability to discriminate across diagnostic groups at baseline was also assessed.
Setting: Academic clinical research center.
Participants: Two hundred and seven participants (45 young normal, 141 clinically normal elderly, and 21 mild cognitive impairment) were recruited from the community and the memory disorders clinics at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Measurements: Participants performed the three tasks of the Harvard Automated Phone Task, which consist of navigating an interactive voice response system to refill a prescription (APT-Script), select a new primary care physician (APT-PCP), and make a bank account transfer and payment (APT-Bank). The 3 tasks were scored based on time, errors, repetitions, and correct completion of the task. The primary outcome measure used for each of the tasks was total time adjusted for correct completion.
Results: The Harvard Automated Phone Task discriminated well between young normal, clinically normal elderly, and mild cognitive impairment participants (APT-Script: p<0.001; APT-PCP: p<0.001; APT-Bank: p=0.04). Worse baseline Harvard Automated Phone Task performance or worsening Harvard Automated Phone Task performance over time tracked with overall worse performance or worsening performance over time in global cognition, processing speed, executive function, and episodic memory.
Conclusions: Prior cross-sectional and current longitudinal analyses have demonstrated the utility of the Harvard Automated Phone Task, a new performance-based activities of daily living instrument, in the assessment of early changes in complex activities of daily living in non-demented elderly at risk for Alzheimer's disease. Future studies will focus on cross-validation with other sensitive activities of daily living tests and Alzheimer's disease biomarkers.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; activities of daily living; longitudinal; mild cognitive impairment; performance-based.