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Age Ageing. 2015 May;44(3):506-10. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afu163. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

Functional status after critical illness: agreement between patient and proxy assessments.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, PO Box 208057, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Geriatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA Yale Program on Aging, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.



assessment of baseline functional status of older patients during and after intensive care unit (ICU) admission is often hampered by challenges related to the critical illness such as cognitive dysfunction, neuropsychological morbidity and pain. To explore the reliability of assessments by carefully chosen proxies, we designed a discriminating selection of proxies and evaluated agreement between patient and proxy responses by assessing activities of daily living (ADLs) at 1 month post-ICU discharge.


patients ≥60 years old admitted to the medical ICU were enrolled in a prospective parent cohort studying delirium. Proxies were carefully screened at ICU admission to choose the best available respondent. Follow-up interviews, including instruments for ADLs, were conducted 1 month after ICU discharge. We examined 179 paired patient-proxy follow-up interviews. Kappa statistics assessed inter-observer agreement, and McNemar's exact test assessed response differences.


patients averaged 73.3 ± 8.1 years old with 29% having evidence of cognitive impairment. Proxies were most commonly spouses (38%) or children (39%). Overall, there was substantial (κ ≥ 0.6) to excellent agreement (κ ≥ 0.8) between patients and proxies on assessment of all but one basic and one instrumental ADL.


proxies carefully chosen at ICU admission show high levels of inter-observer agreement with older patients when assessing current functional status at 1 month post-ICU discharge. This motivates further study of proxy assessments that could be used earlier in critical illness to assess premorbid functional status.


activities of daily living; critical care; epidemiologic methods; older people; proxy

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