Recall in older cancer patients: measuring memory for medical information
The Gerontologist, Vol. 48, p.149-157.
Jansen, J.; Weert, J. van; Meulen, N. van der; Dulmen, S. van; Heeren, Th.; Bensing, J.
cancer care, cognition, memory, patient education
The Gerontological Society of America
Purpose: Remembering medical treatment information
may be particularly taxing for older cancer
patients, but to our knowledge this ability has never
been assessed in this specific age group only. Our
purpose in this study was to investigate older cancer
patients’ recall of information after patient education
preceding chemotherapy. Design and Methods:
We constructed a recall questionnaire consisting of
multiple-choice questions, completion items, and
open-ended questions related to information about
treatment and recommendations on how to handle
side effects. Immediately after a nursing consultation
preceding chemotherapy treatment, 69 older patients
(M=71.8 years, SD=4.1) completed the questionnaire.
We checked recall against the actual communication
in video recordings of the consultations.
Results: On average, 82.2 items were discussed
during the consultations. The mean percentage of
information recalled correctly was 23.2% for openended
questions, 68.0% for completion items, and
80.2% for multiple-choice questions. Implications:
Older cancer patients are confronted with a lot of
information. Recall of information strongly depended
on question format; especially active reproduction appeared
to be poor. To improve treatment outcomes, it
is important that cancer patients are able to actively
retrieve knowledge about how to prevent and recognize
adverse side effects and that this is checked by the health professional. We make suggestions on how to make information more memorable for older