Study Objective: To evaluate the impact of a geriatric consultation team on the functional status of hospitalized elderly patients.
Design: Randomized controlled clinical trial.
Setting: University-affiliated referral Veterans Administration Medical Center.
Patients: One hundred and seventy-eight hospitalized elderly men 75 years or older admitted to medical, surgical, and psychiatry services, but excluding patients admitted to intensive care units.
Intervention: Eighty-eight intervention group patients received multidimensional evaluation by an interdisciplinary geriatric consultation team composed of a faculty geriatrician, geriatrics fellow, geriatric clinical nurse specialist, and a social worker trained in geriatrics. Results of the evaluation, including problem identification and recommendations, were given to the patients' physicians. Ninety control group patients received only usual care.
Measurements and Main Results: Intervention and control groups were comparable initially. The major outcome variable was the Index of Independence in the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) (Katz). Thirty-nine percent of the total study population was functionally independent on admission, 27% required assistance with one to three ADL, 22% required assistance with four to six ADL, and 12% were completely dependent. Many patients remained unchanged from admission to discharge: intervention group, 38%; control group, 39%. In the intervention group, 34% improved and 28% declined; in the control group, 26% improved and 36% declined. Although these changes reflected a trend toward greater improvement in the intervention group, the results were not statistically significant.
Conclusions: Among elderly patients entering an acute-care hospital, approximately 60% had some degree of, and one third had serious functional disability. Such patients are at risk for further decline during hospitalization. A geriatric consultation team was unable to alter the degree of functional decline. Geriatric units or consultation teams may have to offer direct preventive or restorative services in addition to advice if improvements are to be made.