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Cognition and Incarceration: Cognitive Impairment and Its Associated Outcomes in Older Adults in Jail.

  • Author(s): Ahalt, Cyrus
  • Stijacic-Cenzer, Irena
  • Miller, Bruce L
  • Rosen, Howard J
  • Barnes, Deborah E
  • Williams, Brie A
  • et al.

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OBJECTIVES:To determine prevalence of, and outcomes associated with, a positive screen for cognitive impairment in older adults in jail. DESIGN:Combined data from cross-sectional (n=185 participants) and longitudinal (n=125 participants) studies. SETTING:Urban county jail. PARTICIPANTS:Individuals in jail aged 55 and older (N = 310; mean age 59, range 55-80). Inclusion of individuals aged 55 and older is justified because the criminal justice system defines "geriatric prisoners" as those aged 55 and older. MEASUREMENTS:Baseline and follow-up assessments of health, psychosocial factors, and cognitive status (using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)); 6-month acute care use and repeat arrest assessed in those followed longitudinally. RESULTS:Participants were of low socioeconomic status (85% annual income < $15,000) and predominantly nonwhite (75%). Many (70%) scored less than 25 on the MoCA; those with a low MoCA score were more likely to be nonwhite (81% vs 62%, p<.001) and report fair or poor health (54% vs 41%, p=.04). Over 6 months, a MoCA score of less than 25 was associated with multiple emergency department visits (32% vs 13%, p=.02), hospitalization (35% vs 16%, p=.03), and repeat arrests (45% vs 21%, p=.01). CONCLUSIONS:Cognitive impairment is prevalent in older adults in jail and is associated with adverse health and criminal justice outcomes. A geriatric approach to jail-based and transitional health care should be developed to assess and address cognitive impairment. Additional research is needed to better assess cognitive impairment and its consequences in this population. J Am Geriatr Soc 66:2065-2071, 2018.

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