What You Need to Know about Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia

Dementia can occur across all ages but is most prevalent among older citizens. In fact, according to research articles by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, almost 1 in 10 people over 65 years suffer from cognitive impairment.

Dementia is a national tragedy as it is the second leading cause of death in Australia. Mostly prevalent in the older population with a median age of about 89 year.

With the majority of mental health victims suffering from depression, this article will discuss what you need to know about CSDD. 

What is the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia (CSDD)?

The Cornell Scale for Depression in dementia was developed in 1988 by professor George Alexopolous and colleagues  Robert C. Abrams, Robert C. Young, and Charles A. Shamoian—all accomplished personalities in the study of health and psychiatry.

CSDD is an assessment instrument designed in screening for symptoms of depression in dementia people, using a score system. 

What is the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia (CSDD) | My Delta Care

It involves two interviews: one for the patient and the other for the informant.

While the test is adjustable to assess depression in all kinds of groups, it is originally designed for depression in dementia. 

CSDD tools account for inaccuracies that might arise from the subjects’ inability to consistently express their feelings to cognitive impairment.

How the Test Is Administered

A trained health attendant administering the test asks a series of format structured interview questions to the patient. The questions are administered separately to both the patient and a person close to the patient (the informant). The informant could be the patient’s caretaker, the patient’s close friend or a family member.

If both their responses from the interview don’t match, the person administering the test may then review the screen information and make a diagnosis based on clinical impression.


Mental health assessment can use both interview screen items and patient history reviews.

The scale for depression assessment may not include symptoms due to physical disorders or other diseases unrelated to psychiatry.

The screening interview should ideally be carried out by a trained health professional, preferably a nursing professional with some knowledge in psychiatry. This is because some of the depressive symptoms require a trained clinical eye to observe and make a diagnosis, especially people or patients with mental health issues.

The assessment may include questions related to behaviour, mood, physical signs, trends in the symptoms and so on.

Accuracy of the Test

Accuracy of the Test Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia | My Delta Care

Cornell Scale has proven effective in that it is applied in cases where the subjects do not even have dementia. A number of fairly conclusive search results have been obtained to confirm the validity and accuracy of the test. One of these tests includes a test of the CSDD in Parkinson’s disease with and without cognitive impairment. With a little adjustment, a version of this scale was also used for accurately screening depression symptoms amongst elderly people of Korean ethnicity.

The test is therefore significantly more accurate than other scales used in the field of psychiatry.

Discrepancies in the Test

While the use of this test is largely effective, it is not without discrepancies. The test shows moderate agreement between residents and caregivers. However, it shows much stronger values on the depression scale with cognitively impaired subjects.


How the Test is Scored

The test has three responses, each with a certain number of score points equivalency.

How the Test is Scored Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia | My Delta Care

The scores are tallied and evaluated.

A total score above 10 indicates there’s a good chance the subject suffers major depression. A score above 18 conclusively confirms that the subject suffers from major depression requiring immediate treatment.

At Delta Care facility in Victoria, we can assist residents with their mental health requirements. Our specialised allied health and therapy services provide top-notch geriatric care for older patients.

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