Incidence and Documentation of Cognitive Impairment Among Older Adults With Severe Mental Illness in a Community Mental Health Setting

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Cognitive impairments among older adults are commonly linked to poor medical and psychiatric treatment adherence, increased disability, and poor health outcomes. Recent investigations suggest that cognitive impairments are frequently not recognized by healthcare providers and are often poorly documented in medical records. Older adults utilizing services at community mental health centers have numerous risk factors for developing cognitive impairment. Few studies have explored the incidence and documentation of cognitive impairments in this patient population.


Data were collected from 52 ethnically diverse older adults with severe mental illness who were participating in treatment at a large community mental health center. Cognitive impairment was diagnosed by neuropsychologists utilizing the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale-2 (DRS). Measures of depression severity and substance abuse history were also obtained. An age and education corrected DRS total score falling at or below the tenth percentile was used as the criteria for diagnosing cognitive impairment. A medical chart review was subsequently conducted to determine the documentation of cognitive impairments among this patient population.


Cognitive impairment was exhibited by 60% of participants and documented in medical charts for 17% of the sample.


Preliminary data suggests that cognitive impairment is common in individuals with severe mental illness treated at community mental health centers, but these cognitive impairments are not well recognized or documented. The impact of cognitive impairment on psychiatric treatment and case management among community mental health patients is therefore poorly understood.

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