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Journal of Pain and Symptom Management Vol. 41 No. 2 February 2011; doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.04.015


Context. Prospective studies are needed to adequately describe the overall impact of neuropsychiatric syndromes on the course of hospice enrollment in outpatient settings.

Objectives. To determine the prevalence and natural history of delirium, cognitive impairment, alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation (SI) in community-dwelling veteran hospice patients.

Methods. Home hospice patients were visited regularly from enrollment until their deaths, study withdrawal, or discharge from hospice. Family caregivers gave consent for those with Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores less than or equal to 23. Measures included the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV for depression (past and current) and alcohol abuse; the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; MMSE; and Confusion Assessment Method (CAM). A clinicianrated CAM item documented sleep disturbance, and participants were asked about SI at each visit.

Results. The median length of hospice enrollment was 81 days. Of 88 participants, 77 (88%) experienced at least one neuropsychiatric syndrome. Cognitive impairment was prevalent, with 60 (68%) registering MMSE less than or equal to 23 at least once. More than half of the participants developed delirium; the proportion with delirium, any cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, or any neuropsychiatric syndrome increased significantly from first to last study visit. Twelve (14%) participants had SI during the study, and 30 (34%) participants were affected by depression overall. Sixteen patients who were not depressed on admission subsequently developed depression. Anxiety was present in 14 (16%) on at least one study visit. Active alcohol abuse remained relatively stable (8%) across visits.

Conclusions. Psychiatric syndromes are highly prevalent in hospice patients. Systematic case finding of psychiatric disorders may be necessary to improve

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