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Probable delirium and associated patient characteristics in long-term care and complex continuing care: a population-based observational study

Webber C, Watt CL, Bush SH, Lawlor PG, Knoefel F, Momoli F, Thavorn K, Casey G, Tanuseputro P. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2021; Jun 23 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2021.05.032


Objectives — To estimate the prevalence of probable delirium in long-term care (LTC) and complex continuing care (CCC) settings and to describe the resident characteristics associated with probable delirium.

Design — Population-based cross-sectional study using routinely collected administrative health data.

Setting and Participants — All LTC and CCC residents in Ontario, Canada, assessed with the Resident Assessment Instrument-Minimum Dataset (RAI-MDS) assessment between July 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016 (LTC n=86,454, CCC n=10,217).

Methods — Probable delirium was identified via the delirium Clinical Assessment Protocol on the RAI-MDS assessment, which is triggered when individuals display at least 1 of 6 delirium symptoms that are of recent onset and different from their usual functioning. RAI-MDS assessments were linked to demographic and health services utilization databases to ascertain resident demographics and health status. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify characteristics associated with probable delirium, with adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) reported.

Results — Delirium was probable in 3.6% of LTC residents and 16.5% of CCC patients. LTC patients displayed fewer delirium symptoms than CCC patients. The most common delirium symptom in LTC was periods of lethargy (44.6% of delirium cases); in CCC, it was mental function varying over the course of the day (63.5% of delirium cases). The odds of probable delirium varied across individual demographics and health characteristics, with increased health instability having the strongest association with the outcome in both care settings (LTC: OR 30.4, 95% CI 26.2-35.3; CCC: OR 21.0, 95% CI 16.7-26.5 for high vs low instability).

Conclusions and Implications — There were differences in the presentation and burden of delirium symptoms between LTC and CCC, potentially reflecting differences in delirium severity or symptom identification. Several risk factors for probable delirium in LTC and CCC were identified that may be amenable to interventions to prevent this highly distressing condition.

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