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Clinical characteristics associated with the onset of delirium among long-term nursing home residents

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Evelyn Ning Man Cheung,corresponding author1 Sophiya Benjamin,2 George Heckman,3,4 Joanne Man-Wai Ho,1,3,5 Linda Lee,5,6 Samir K. Sinha,7 and Andrew P. Costa1,3,5,8



Nursing home residents are frail, have multiple medical comorbidities, and are at high risk for delirium. Most of the existing evidence base on delirium is derived from studies in the acute in-patient population. We examine the association between clinical characteristics and medication use with the incidence of delirium during the nursing home stay.


This is a retrospective cohort study of 1571 residents from 12 nursing homes operated by a single care provider in Ontario, Canada. Residents were over the age of 55 and admitted between February 2010 and December 2015 with no baseline delirium and a minimum stay of 180 days. Residents with moderate or worse cognitive impairment at baseline were excluded. The baseline and follow-up characteristics of residents were collected from the Resident Assessment Instrument-Minimal Data Set 2.0 completed at admission and repeated quarterly until death or discharge. Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify characteristics and medication use associated with the onset of delirium.


The incidence of delirium was 40.4% over the nursing home stay (mean LOS: 32 months). A diagnosis of dementia (OR: 2.54, p < .001), the presence of pain (OR: 1.64, p < .001), and the use of antipsychotics (OR: 1.87, p < .001) were significantly associated with the onset of delirium. Compared to residents who did not develop delirium, residents who developed a delirium had a greater increase in the use of antipsychotics and antidepressants over the nursing home stay.


Dementia, the presence of pain, and the use of antipsychotics were associated with the onset of delirium. Pain monitoring and treatment may be important to decrease delirium in nursing homes. Future studies are necessary to examine the prescribing patterns in nursing homes and their association with delirium.

Resource: BMC Geriatr. 2018; 18: 39. Published online 2018 Feb 2. doi: 10.1186/s12877-018-0733-3

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