• mortality;
  • functional decline;
  • screening tool

OBJECTIVES: To examine whether the Vulnerable Elders Survey (VES-13) score predicts risk of death and functional decline in vulnerable older adults.

DESIGN: Longitudinal evaluation with mean follow-up of 11 months (range 8–14 months).

SETTING: Two managed care organizations in the United States.

PARTICIPANTS: Four hundred twenty community-dwelling older people identified as having moderate to high risk of death and functional decline based on a VES-13 score of 3 or higher. These older people were enrolled in the Assessing Care of Vulnerable Elders observational study.

MEASUREMENTS: Baseline: VES-13 score, sex, income, cognitive score, and number of medical diagnoses. Outcome measures: functional decline and death.

RESULTS: VES-13 scores strongly predicted death and functional decline (P<.001, area under the receiver operating curve=0.66). The estimated combined risk of death and decline rose with VES-13 score, increasing from 23% for older people with a VES-13 score of 3 to 60% for those with a score of 10. Other measures (sex, comorbidity) were not significant predictors of death or decline over this period after controlling for VES-13 score.

CONCLUSION: The VES-13 score is useful as a screening tool to detect risk of health deterioration in already vulnerable older populations, and higher scores reflect greater risk over a short follow-up period.