The contribution of functional cognition screening during acute illness hospitalization of older adults in predicting participation in daily life after discharge

Maya Arieli*, Maayan Agmon, Efrat Gil, Rachel Kizony

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cognitive assessment in acutely hospitalized older adults is mainly limited to neuropsychological screening measures of global cognition. Performance-based assessments of functional cognition better indicate functioning in real-life situations. However, their predictive validity has been less studied in acute hospital settings. The aim of this study was to explore the unique contribution of functional cognition screening during acute illness hospitalization in predicting participation of older adults one and three months after discharge beyond traditional neuropsychological measures. Methods: This prospective longitudinal study included 84 older adults ≥ 65 years hospitalized in internal medicine wards due to acute illness, followed by home visits at one month and telephone interviews at three months (n = 77). Participation in instrumental activities of daily living, social and leisure activities was measured by the Activity Card Sort. In-hospital factors included cognitive status (telephone version of the Mini-Mental State Examination, Color Trails Test), functional cognition screening (medication sorting task from the alternative Executive Function Performance Test), emotional status (Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale), functional decline during hospitalization (modified Barthel index), length of hospital stay, the severity of the acute illness, symptoms severity and comorbidities. Results: Functional cognition outperformed the neuropsychological measures in predicting participation declines in a sample of relatively high-functioning older adults. According to a hierarchical multiple linear regression analysis, the overall model explained 28.4% of the variance in participation after one month and 19.5% after three months. Age and gender explained 18.6% of the variance after one month and 13.5% after three months. The medication sorting task explained an additional 5.5% of the variance of participation after one month and 5.1% after three months, beyond age and gender. Length of stay and the Color Trails Test were not significant contributors to the change in participation. Conclusions: By incorporating functional cognition into acute settings, healthcare professionals would be able to better detect older adults with mild executive dysfunctions who are at risk for participation declines. Early identification of executive dysfunctions can improve continuity of care and planning of tailored post-discharge rehabilitation services, especially for high-functioning older adults, a mostly overlooked population in acute settings. The results support the use of functional cognition screening measure of medication management ability in acute settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number739
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Israel Science FoundationISF1216/17


    • Acute hospitalization
    • Executive functions
    • Functional cognition
    • Older adults
    • Participation
    • Performance-based screening measures


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