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In sub-Saharan Africa, there are no validated screening tools for delirium in older adults, despite the known vulnerability of older people to delirium and the associated adverse outcomes. This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of a brief smartphone-based assessment of arousal and attention (DelApp) in the identification of delirium amongst older adults admitted to the medical department of a tertiary referral hospital in Northern Tanzania.
Consecutive admissions were screened using the DelApp during a larger study of delirium prevalence and risk factors. All participants subsequently underwent detailed clinical assessment for delirium by a research doctor. Delirium and dementia were identified against DSM-5 criteria by consensus.
Complete data for 66 individuals were collected of whom 15 (22.7%) had delirium, 24.5% had dementia without delirium, and 10.6% had delirium superimposed on dementia. Sensitivity and specificity of the DelApp for delirium were 0.87 and 0.62, respectively (AUROC 0.77) and 0.88 and 0.73 (AUROC 0.85) for major cognitive impairment (dementia and delirium combined). Lower DelApp score was associated with age, significant visual impairment (<6/60 acuity), illness severity, reduced arousal and DSM-5 delirium on univariable analysis, but on multivariable logistic regression only arousal remained significant.
In this setting, the DelApp performed well in identifying delirium and major cognitive impairment but did not differentiate delirium and dementia. Performance is likely to have been affected by confounders including uncorrected visual impairment and reduced level of arousal without delirium. Negative predictive value was nevertheless high, indicating excellent ‘rule out’ value in this setting.
Frailty prevalence is higher in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) compared with high-income countries when measured by biomedical frailty models, the most widely used being the frailty phenotype. Frailty in older people is becoming of global public health interest as a means of promoting health in old age in LMICs. As yet, little work has been done to establish to what extent the concept of frailty, as conceived according to ‘western’ biomedicine, has cross-cultural resonance for a low-income rural African setting. This study aimed to investigate the meaning of frailty contextually, using the biomedical concept of the frailty phenotype as a framework. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of older adults, their care-givers and community representatives in rural northern Tanzania. Thirty interview transcripts were transcribed, translated from Kiswahili to English and thematically analysed. Results reveal that despite superficial similarities in the understanding of frailty, to a great extent the physical changes highlighted by the frailty phenotype were naturalised, except when these were felt to be due to a scarcity of resources. Frailty was conceptualised as less of a physical problem of the individual, but rather, as a social problem of the community, suggesting that the frailty construct may be usefully applied cross-culturally when taking a social equity focus to the health of older people in LMICs.
HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HANDs) are prevalent in older people living with HIV (PLWH) worldwide. HAND prevalence and incidence studies of the newly emergent population of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART)-treated older PLWH in sub-Saharan Africa are currently lacking. We aimed to estimate HAND prevalence and incidence using robust measures in stable, cART-treated older adults under long-term follow-up in Tanzania and report cognitive comorbidities.
A systematic sample of consenting HIV-positive adults aged ≥50 years attending routine clinical care at an HIV Care and Treatment Centre during March–May 2016 and followed up March–May 2017.
HAND by consensus panel Frascati criteria based on detailed locally normed low-literacy neuropsychological battery, structured neuropsychiatric clinical assessment, and collateral history. Demographic and etiological factors by self-report and clinical records.
In this cohort (n = 253, 72.3% female, median age 57), HAND prevalence was 47.0% (95% CI 40.9–53.2, n = 119) despite well-managed HIV disease (Mn CD4 516 (98-1719), 95.5% on cART). Of these, 64 (25.3%) were asymptomatic neurocognitive impairment, 46 (18.2%) mild neurocognitive disorder, and 9 (3.6%) HIV-associated dementia. One-year incidence was high (37.2%, 95% CI 25.9 to 51.8), but some reversibility (17.6%, 95% CI 10.0–28.6 n = 16) was observed.
HAND appear highly prevalent in older PLWH in this setting, where demographic profile differs markedly to high-income cohorts, and comorbidities are frequent. Incidence and reversibility also appear high. Future studies should focus on etiologies and potentially reversible factors in this setting.
Depression in older people is likely to become a growing global health problem with aging populations. Significant cultural variation exists in beliefs about depression (terminology, symptomatology, and treatments) but data from sub-Saharan Africa are minimal. Low-resource interventions for depression have been effective in low-income settings but cannot be utilized without accurate diagnosis. This study aimed to achieve a shared understanding of depression in Tanzania in older people.
Using a qualitative design, focus groups were conducted with participants aged 60 and over. Participants from rural villages of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, were selected via randomized sampling using census data. Topic guides were developed including locally developed case vignettes. Transcripts were translated into English from Swahili and thematic analysis conducted.
Ten focus groups were held with 81 participants. Three main themes were developed: a) conceptualization of depression by older people and differentiation from other related conditions (“too many thoughts,” cognitive symptoms, affective and biological symptoms, wish to die, somatic symptoms, and its difference to other concepts); b) the causes of depression (inability to work, loss of physical strength and independence, lack of resources, family difficulties, chronic disease); c) management of depression (love and comfort, advice, spiritual support, providing help, medical help).
This research expands our understanding of how depression presents in older Tanzanians and provides information about lay beliefs regarding causes and management options. This may allow development of culturally specific screening tools for depression that, in turn, increase diagnosis rates, support accurate diagnosis, improve service use, and reduce stigma.
Little is known about the current views and practices of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) regarding delivery of hospital palliative care. The present qualitative study explored the views of nursing staff and medical professionals on providing palliative and end-of-life care (EoLC) to hospital inpatients in Tanzania.
Focus group discussions were conducted with a purposive sample of HCPs working on the medical and pediatric wards of the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, a tertiary referral hospital in northern Tanzania. Transcriptions were coded using a thematic approach.
In total, 32 healthcare workers were interviewed via 7 focus group discussions and 1 semistructured interview. Four major themes were identified. First, HCPs held strong views on what factors were important to enable individuals with a life-limiting diagnosis to live and die well. Arriving at a state of “acceptance” was the ultimate goal; however, they acknowledged that they often fell short of achieving this for inpatients. Thus, the second theme involved identifying the “barriers” to delivering palliative care in hospital. Another important factor identified was difficulty with complex communications, particularly “breaking bad news,” the third theme. Fourth, participants were divided about their personal preferences for “place of EoLC,” but all emphasized the benefits of the hospital setting so as to enable better symptom control.
Significance of results:
Despite the fact that all the HCPs interviewed were regularly involved in providing palliative and EoLC, they had received limited formal training in its provision, although they identified such training as a universal requirement. This training gap is likely to be present across much of SSA. Palliative care training, particularly in terms of communication skills, should be comprehensively integrated within undergraduate and postgraduate education. Research is needed to develop culturally appropriate curricula to equip HCPs to manage the complex communication challenges that occur in caring for a diverse inpatient group with palliative care needs.
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