Measuring global functioning in older adults with cognitive impairments using the Rasch model

Rocco Palumbo, Alberto Di Domenico, Federica Piras, Salvatore Bazzano, Mario Zerilli, Fabio Lorico, Erika Borella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cognitive and functional measures are often measured and interpreted separately during the clinical evaluation of patients with cognitive impairment. This can sometimes lead to a challenging interpretation when measures do not show concordance, especially after a clinical intervention. In this study, the development and evaluation of a new approach, using the Rasch model, that combines cognitive and functional measures in one single and more powerful measure (compared to stand-alone tests) to assess global functioning in older adults with cognitive impairment (including dementia) was presented. Methods: Clinical data from 265 older adults’ subjects diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, or dementia, included: The Mini-mental state examination (MMSE), the Esame Neuropsicologico Breve (ENB) – a neuropsychological battery used in Italy–, the Activities of Daily Living (ADL), and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) questionnaires. Results: Patients with severe cognitive impairment showed lower global functioning score compared to patients with moderate impairment. Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve analyses were performed to determine sensitivity and specificity of the global functioning score resulting from the combined measure. Results showed that the global functioning score discriminates better between patients with severe and moderate cognitive impairment compared to the ENB, ADL, and IADL when considered separately. Conclusions: The Rasch model was able to combine cognitive and functional measures into a single score (global functioning score). All together, these results suggest that the diverse cognitive and functional measures can be considered part of one single dimension (global functioning) and that this dimension can be measured as a single construct and score. This study offers an alternative perspective for future development of instruments that would help clinicians in measuring global functioning in older adults’ patients at different stages of cognitive impairments and different baseline level of performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number492
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Activities of daily living
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Global functioning
  • MCI
  • Rasch model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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