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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2011 Feb;41(2):394-401. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.04.015. Epub 2010 Sep 25.

Prevalence and natural history of neuropsychiatric syndromes in veteran hospice patients.

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1
Mental Health Division and Health Services Research and Development Program, Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Portland, Oregon 97207, USA.

Abstract

CONTEXT:

Prospective studies are needed to adequately describe the overall impact of neuropsychiatric syndromes on the course of hospice enrollment in outpatient settings.

OBJECTIVES:

To determine the prevalence and natural history of delirium, cognitive impairment, alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation (SI) in community-dwelling veteran hospice patients.

METHODS:

Home hospice patients were visited regularly from enrollment until their deaths, study withdrawal, or discharge from hospice. Family caregivers gave consent for those with Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores less than or equal to 23. Measures included the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV for depression (past and current) and alcohol abuse; the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; MMSE; and Confusion Assessment Method (CAM). A clinician-rated CAM item documented sleep disturbance, and participants were asked about SI at each visit.

RESULTS:

The median length of hospice enrollment was 81 days. Of 88 participants, 77 (88%) experienced at least one neuropsychiatric syndrome. Cognitive impairment was prevalent, with 60 (68%) registering MMSE less than or equal to 23 at least once. More than half of the participants developed delirium; the proportion with delirium, any cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, or any neuropsychiatric syndrome increased significantly from first to last study visit. Twelve (14%) participants had SI during the study, and 30 (34%) participants were affected by depression overall. Sixteen patients who were not depressed on admission subsequently developed depression. Anxiety was present in 14 (16%) on at least one study visit. Active alcohol abuse remained relatively stable (8%) across visits.

CONCLUSIONS:

Psychiatric syndromes are highly prevalent in hospice patients. Systematic case finding of psychiatric disorders may be necessary to improve quality of life in the last months of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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