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OBJECTIVES: To identify the factors associated with accurate recall of prior disability.

DESIGN: Cohort study.

SETTING: Greater New Haven, Connecticut.

PARTICIPANTS: Ninety-two participants, included in each of two analytical samples, who were nondisabled at the present time in four essential activities of daily living (ADLs; bathing, dressing, transferring, and walking) but who had had at least 1 month of disability during the prior year as determined from monthly telephone interviews.

MEASUREMENTS: Participants who did not need help from another person at the present time were asked to recall whether they had needed help from another person to complete the relevant ADL at any time during the previous 12 months.

RESULTS: Forty-five (48.9%) and 46 (50.0%) of the 92 participants accurately recalled having had disability in the prior year in the first and second analytical samples, respectively. Having at least a high school education was the only factor independently associated with accurate recall in the first analytical sample, with an adjusted odds ratio (AOR) of 3.03 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.11-8.31), whereas a composite disability scale that considered the timing and severity of prior disability was the only factor independently associated with accurate recall in the second analytic sample (AOR=5.38, 95% CI=1.81-16.1).

CONCLUSION: The results of the current study, coupled with those of previous studies, suggest potential strategies that could be used to more completely and accurately ascertain the occurrence of disability in older persons.

(C) 2009 by the American Geriatrics Society