Background/Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between nurses' clinical judgment on cognitive function by fall risk assessment and mini-mental state examination (MMSE) scores in elderly inpatients. Methods: We studied 61 consecutive hospitalized patients who received both comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) and fall risk assessment at the Department of Geriatric Medicine in Kyoto University Hospital from January 2006 to June 2010. During the fall risk assessment at admission, primary nurses evaluated the cognitive function by four items (with or without disorientation, impaired judgment, lack of comprehension, and memory loss), while a trained clinical assistant performed CGA including MMSE. Patients were divided into three groups according to the MMSE scores. The association between the four items of judgment by nurses and MMSE scores was then studied. Results: The mean age was 80.1 years and 55.7% of the patients were female. The percentage of patients judged to have impaired judgment, lack of comprehension, and memory loss was higher in patients with lower MMSE scores (impaired judgment, p for trend = 0.001; lack of comprehension, p for trend = 0.043; memory loss, p for trend = 0.001). The percentage of patients judged to have at least one of the four abnormalities was also significantly higher in patients with lower MMSE scores (p for trend <0.001). However, no significant relationship was found between disorientation and the MMSE scores. Further, nurses could not detect impaired cognition by the four items in one-third of the patients with mild impairment determined by MMSE. Conclusion: These data indicate that a comprehensive evaluation using all the four items on cognitive impairment is more effective in detecting cognitive impairment in elderly than using individual items, although one-third of cognitively impaired elderly patients may miss detection despite the use of the four items. Better approaches should be developed to identify cognitively impaired elderly patients by nurses.
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