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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2012 Mar;20(3):215-27. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3182410cdb.

The association between mental health and cognitive screening scores in older veterans.

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  • 1Center for Integrated Healthcare, Department of Veterans Affairs, Buffalo, NY 14215, USA.



: To examine overall cognitive screening results and the relationship between cognitive screen score and sociodemographic characteristics, reason for referral, and clinical outcomes of older veterans referred by primary care for a behavioral health assessment.


: Cross-sectional, naturalistic study.


: Primary care clinics affiliated with two VA Medical Centers.


: The sample included 4,325 older veterans referred to the Behavioral Health Laboratory who completed an initial mental health/substance abuse assessment. Veterans were categorized into the following three groups on the basis of cognitive status: within normal limits, possible cognitive impairment, and possible dementia.


: Sociodemographic and clinical data on reason for referral, cognitive functioning (i.e., Blessed Orientation-Memory-Concentration test), and behavioral health assessment outcomes were extracted from patients' medical records. Data were analyzed using multiple linear and logistic regressions.


: Results of cognitive screenings indicated that the majority of the sample was within normal limits (62.5%), with 25.8%, 8.1%, and 3.6% of patients evidencing possible cognitive impairment, possible dementia, and Blessed Orientation-Memory-Concentration scores of 17 or more, respectively. With regard to reason for referral, patients with greater cognitive impairment were more likely to be identified by the antidepressant case finder than patients with less impairment. Increased age, non-white ethnicity, self-perceived inadequate finances, major depressive disorder, and symptoms of psychosis were associated with greater cognitive impairment.


: Findings highlight the importance of evaluating cognitive status in older adults who are referred for a behavioral health assessment and/or receive a new mental health/substance abuse diagnosis. Doing so has the potential to improve recognition and treatment of cognitive impairment and dementia, thereby improving quality of care for many older adults.

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