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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1995 Dec;43(12):1363-9.

Use of the Minimum Data Set to rate incontinence severity.

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UCLA School of Medicine 91335, USA.



To assess the relationship of the MDS incontinence severity ratings to direct measures of incontinence frequency.


Two methods of measuring incontinence were compared: the MDS rating as recorded by nursing home (NH) staff and physical checks for wetness performed by research staff.


A total sample of 293 older residents from nine nursing homes located in Iowa, the State of Washington, and the Los Angeles area were assessed once. A subsample of 49 incontinent residents were assessed twice, before and after the implementation of a prompted voiding program.


This study is a part of a larger study evaluating the use of a computer-aided incontinence management system (IMS). Incontinent residents were assessed, and, if they met predefined criteria, they were treated with prompted voiding.


Three measures of incontinence were used: the MDS rating recorded by NH staff, physical checks for wetness performed by NH staff while assessing residents for and treating them with prompted voiding, and physical checks for wetness performed independently by research staff.


There was a statistically significant correlation (r = .49; P < or = .001) between research staff wet checks and the MDS ratings, but wetness checks performed by NH staff had an insignificant correlation with MDS ratings (r = .003; P < 0.914). There was wide variability within and between NHs in the correlation. For residents who were placed on the prompted voiding program, the pre to post wet rate, as measured by research staff, improved significantly (from 28 to 14%; t = 6.73; df = 48; P < .001), whereas the pre to post MDS ratings did not change significantly (from 1.7 to 2.0; t = -1.42; df = 48; P < .075).


Although the MDS appears to identify incontinent NH residents accurately, its clinical utility may be limited by disagreements between actual wet check data and MDS categorical severity rankings for residents known to be incontinent. The wide variability between direct observational measures of wetness and the MDS scores denoting incontinence severity we observed may limit the potential usefulness of the MDS for detecting changes in incontinence severity. It is possible that more information and instructions are needed for staff completing the MDS if the goal is to discriminate between different levels of incontinence severity and measure changes over time in response to therapeutic interventions.

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