Cognitive impairment that does not meet criteria for dementia is common and progresses to dementia at a high rate. It is not clear how best to define this type of cognitive impairment. We assessed the predictive validity of different case definitions for cognitive impairment and dementia by comparing rates of adverse outcomes for individuals who did not meet dementia criteria but had neuropsychological test results indicating dementia (NPDementia), those who had traditional dementia diagnoses (mild and moderate-severe severity), those who had other cognitive impairment but no dementia (CIND), and those with no cognitive impairment (NCI). Our sample comprised 1,659 participants who had completed a neuropsychological assessment in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, a prospective, cohort study of 10,263 randomly selected persons aged 65 years or older. Outcomes were determined after 5 years. Institutionalization and death rates for the NPDementia and CIND groups were higher than for the NCI group. Both groups had lower institutionalization rates than the two Dementia groups and lower death rates than the Moderate-Severe Dementia group. Rates of progression to dementia were increased in NPDementia and CIND groups, relative to the NCI group, and the NPDementia group was less likely than the CIND group to revert to a diagnosis of NCI at the 5-year follow-up. Thus, individuals with NPDementia and CIND have substantially worse outcomes over 5 years than those with NCI. The case definition of NPDementia identified individuals with cognitive impairment that is unlikely to resolve and likely to progress to dementia.

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