The clinical utility of the Cornell scale for depression in dementia as a routine assessment in nursing homes

Yun-Hee Jeon, Zhicheng Li, Lee-Fay Low, Lynn Chenoweth, Daniel O'Connor, Elizabeth Beattie, Zhixin Liu, Henry Brodaty

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Objective: To examine the clinical utility of the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia (CSDD) in nursing homes. 

Setting: 14 nursing homes in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia. 

Participants: 92 residents with a mean age of 85 years. 

Measurements: Consenting residents were assessed by care staff for depression using the CSDD as part of their routine assessment. Specialist clinicians conducted assessment of depression using the Semi-structured Clinical Diagnostic Interview for DSMIV-TR Axis I Disorders for residents without dementia or the Provisional Diagnostic Criteria for Depression in Alzheimer Disease for residents with dementia to establish expert clinical diagnoses of depression. The diagnostic performance of the staff completed CSDD was analyzed against expert diagnosis using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. 

Results: The CSDD showed low diagnostic accuracy, with areas under the ROC curve being 0.69, 0.68 and 0.70 for the total sample, residents with dementia and residents without dementia, respectively. At the standard CSDD cutoff score, the sensitivity and specificity were 71% and 59% for the total sample, 69% and 57% for residents with dementia, and 75% and 61% for residents without dementia. The Youden index (for optimizing cut-points) suggested different depression cutoff scores for residents with and without dementia. 

Conclusion: When administered by nursing home staff the clinical utility of the CSDD is highly questionable in identifying depression. The complexity of the scale, the time required for collecting relevant information, and staff skills and knowledge of assessing depression in older people must be considered when using the CSDD in nursing homes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)784-793
Number of pages10
JournalThe American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Assessment
  • Cornell Scale for depression in dementia
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Nursing homes

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