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J Palliat Med. 2011 Mar;14(3):275-9. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2010.0179. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Ease of screening for depression and delirium in patients enrolled in inpatient hospice care.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Veterans Affairs Healthcare System , La Jolla, California, USA.



Major depression and delirium are prevalent, underrecognized, and undertreated in hospice and palliative care settings. Furthermore, they are both associated with significant morbidity and mortality.


A screening study of patients receiving inpatient hospice care was conducted in order to determine the ease of screening for depression and delirium in patients with advanced, life-threatening illnesses by hospice social workers and nurses, respectively.


A two-question depression screening tool was administered to 20 consecutive patients on admission to a hospice general inpatient care center by social work staff during their initial assessment. A delirium-screening tool was administered daily to 22 consecutive patients admitted to the ICC daily by nursing staff. Screening results were collected, as were patient and staff feelings about the burden of the screening process.


Of the 20 patients screened on admission for depression by social work, 70% (14/20) screened positive. Of the 22 patients screened daily for delirium by nursing, 64% (14/22) screened positive at least once during their admission. Screening for both conditions was considered relatively easy to accomplish by the hospice staff. There were no significant associations between a positive screen of depression or delirium and patient gender, age, ethnicity, terminal diagnosis, or marital status.


These results support the notion that depression and delirium are very common in hospice inpatients, and that screening for both is relatively easy and practical for hospice clinicians to conduct.

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