A Performing Arts Intervention Improves Cognitive Dysfunction in 50 Hospitalized Older Adults

Academic Article


  • Background and Objectives: Arts in medicine programs have emerged as a patient-centered approach that aims to improve health-related quality of life for patients in U.S. hospitals. Storytelling and poetry/monologue recitation are forms of arts-based experiences designed to enhance healing and are delivered by an artist-in-residence. We evaluated the effect of a storytelling/poetry experience on delirium screening scores and patient satisfaction in hospitalized older adults. Research Design and Methods:: We conducted an observational pre-post study with a control group in the Acute Care for the Elders (ACE) unit at an academic medical center. A convenience sample of 50 participants was recruited to participate and complete two questionnaires measuring pain, anxiety, general well-being, and distress at hospital admission and at hospital discharge. Multivariable regression models were used to compare delirium screening score (primary outcome) between the control and intervention groups and to adjust for the differences in baseline characteristics between groups. Results: At baseline participants in the intervention group were younger and had significantly lower cognitive impairment compared with those in the control group. Participants exposed to the storytelling/poetry intervention had a lower delirium screening score at hospital discharge compared with those in the control group. The result remained significant after adjusting for age, baseline cognitive impairment, and general well-being. Participants in the intervention group reported a high level of satisfaction with the interaction with the artist delivering the intervention. Discussion and Implications: An artist in residence-delivered storytelling/poetry experience was associated with a lower delirium score at discharge in this pilot study. Further larger studies in diverse inpatient settings are needed to examine whether storytelling/poetry interventions or other types of arts in medicine programs can prevent or reduce delirium in hospitalized older adults.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Danila MI; Melnick JA; Mudano A; Flood K; Booth K; Kirklin K; Saag KG
  • Volume

  • 2
  • Issue

  • 2