Background: a high prevalence of co-morbid mental health problems is reported among older adults admitted to general hospitals.
Setting: an 1,800 bed teaching hospital.
Design: consecutive general medical and trauma orthopaedic admissions aged 70 or older were screened for mental health problems. Those screening positive were invited to undergo further assessment, and were interviewed to complete a battery of health status measurements.
Results: of 1,004 patients screened, 36% had no mental health problems or had anxiety alone. Of those screening positive 250 took part in the full study. Adjusting for the two-stage sampling design, 50% of admitted patients over 70 were cognitively impaired, 27% had delirium and 8–32% were depressed. Six percent had hallucinations, 8% delusions, 21% apathy and 9% agitation/aggression (of at least moderate severity). Of those with mental health problems, 47% were incontinent, 49% needed help with feeding and 44% needed major help to transfer.
Interpretation: we confirm the high prevalence of mental health problems among older adults admitted to general hospitals. These patients have high levels of functional dependency, psychological and behavioural problems which have implications for how they are cared for. Services that identify these problems and offer therapeutic intervention should be evaluated.