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Delirium is often missed in older outpatients. Caregivers can give valuable information that might improve identification rates. The aim of this study was to develop a short and sensitive delirium caregiver questionnaire (DCQ) for triage of elderly outpatients with cognitive impairment by telephone.
Design, setting, and participants:
The pilot questionnaire was administered to 112 caregivers of patients who were referred for dementia screening to our clinic for geriatric psychiatry, and the final DCQ to 234 other caregivers.
In phase I (2013–2014), we tested a pilot questionnaire with 17 items. Health professionals who established delirium diagnoses were blinded to the results. We then used the results and other information available at referral to construct the final DCQ with seven items. During phase II (2015–2016), we investigated the test accuracy of the final DCQ in a subsequent cohort. In both phases, the patients received a structured diagnostic workup. Time between referral and first visit was a secondary outcome.
The final DCQ consisted of the following items: emergency visit required, sleeping disorder, fluctuating course, hallucinations, suspicious thoughts, previous delirium, and recent discharge from hospital. DCQ results indicated that urgent intake was required in 85 of 234 patients. Sensitivity was 73.5% (95% CI: 58.9–85.1%) and specificity 73.5% (95% CI: 66.5–79.7%). The mean number of days to first visit dropped from 31.6 to 11.2 in delirious patients (p = 0.001).
Triage with the easy-to-use DCQ among patients referred for cognitive screening leads to earlier assessment and higher detection rates of delirium.
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