OBJECTIVE: To identify trajectories of cognitive-affective depressive symptoms among acutely hospitalized older patients and whether trajectories are related to prognostic baseline factors and three-month outcomes such as functional decline, falls, unplanned readmissions, and mortality.
METHODS: Prospective multicenter cohort of acutely hospitalized patients aged ≥ 70. Depressive trajectories were based on Group Based Trajectory Modeling, using the Geriatric Depression Scale-15. Outcomes were functional decline, falls, unplanned readmission, and mortality within three months post-discharge.
RESULTS: The analytic sample included 398 patients (mean age = 79.6 years; SD = 6.6). Three distinct depressive symptoms trajectories were identified: minimal (63.6%), mild persistent (25.4%), and severe persistent (11.0%). Unadjusted results showed that, compared to the minimal symptoms group, the mild and severe persistent groups showed a significantly higher risk of functional decline (mild: OR = 3.9, p < .001; severe: OR = 3.0, p = .04), falls (mild: OR = 2.0, p = .02; severe: OR = 6.0, p < .001), and mortality (mild: OR = 2.2, p = .05; severe: OR = 3.4, p = .009). Patients with mild or severe persistent symptoms were more malnourished, anxious, and functionally limited and had more medical comorbidities at admission.
CONCLUSION: Nearly 40% of the acutely hospitalized older adults exhibited mild to severe levels of cognitive-affective depressive symptoms. In light of the substantially elevated risk of serious complications and the fact that elevated depressive symptoms was not a transient phenomenon identification of these patients is needed. This further emphasizes the need for acute care hospitals, as a point of engagement with older adults, to develop discharge or screening procedures for managing cognitive-affective depressive symptoms.