Functional assessment of cognitively impaired older adults: are we asking the right questions?

Clara Calia, Eleanor Pickett, Freddie O'Donald, Mario A Parra

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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Background: Recent attention has turned to the development of preventative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by targeting the early stages of impairment. However, current neuropsychological and functional assessments are not ideally suited to identify early deviations from healthy ageing (HA). The Details of Functions of Everyday Life (DoFEL; Parra & Kaplan, 2019) is a theory-driven scale that incorporates cognitive constructs sensitive to the preclinical stages of dementia (memory binding). DoFEL can help assess the extent to which instrumental functions of daily living are supported by such cognitive abilities and if so, whether by asking the right questions through such a scale we could unveil subtle and still undetected impairments. We predict this would increase the sensitivity of scales to detect older adults with cognitive impairment who are at a high risk of dementia.


Methods: Twenty-five MCI and 21 HA controls (ACE-R score ≥ 88) (Mioshi et al., 2006) underwent an extensive baseline neuropsychological assessment followed by yearly follow-up assessments. The DoFEL is an informant-based neuropsychological assessment that measures a range of functional abilities which rely on different forms of binding functions. This measure includes 82 statements subdivided into 7 functional domains that comprehensively assess different aspects of daily living. Higher DoFEL score indicate greater impairment.


Results: Five key findings from this study were: (1) The total DoFEL score differentiates MCI from HA U=406.00, p=0.002. Higher scores were detected in individuals with MCI (Mdn= 0.41, Mean rank= 29.24) than in the HA (Mdn= 0.35, Mean rank= 16.67). (2) Individuals with MCI showed domain-specific impairments on DoFEL such as Objects and People, Technology and Communication, Work and Social Life. (3) Relative to HA, MCI patients presented with impaired functional abilities that rely on relational (i.e., forming associations, p=0.001) and conjunctive (i.e., forming object identity, p=0.004). (4) DoFEL scores correlate with (r= -0.62, p=0.000), and predicts cognitive performance on the ACE-R (β= -128.68, t(44)= -6.97, p=0.000).


Conclusion: DoFEL can detect differences between individuals with MCI and HA in overall and specific functional abilities seemingly supported by binding functions and therefore may be a useful tool to identify individuals at risk of developing AD.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2020
EventAlzheimer’s Association International Conference 2020 - Virtual Event
Duration: 27 Jul 202031 Jul 2020


ConferenceAlzheimer’s Association International Conference 2020
Internet address


  • cognitive performance
  • cognitive impairment
  • Alzheimer disease


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