Feasibility of salivary cortisol collection in patients and companions attending dementia diagnostic meetings in memory clinics

H Pavlickova, A E Russell, S Lightman, R McCabe

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OBJECTIVES: Receiving a diagnosis of dementia is life-changing for the individual and their companion. The aim of the study was to explore the feasibility of collecting salivary cortisol from patients who are informed if they have dementia and their companions. Patients and companions collected nine saliva samples in three batches: 1-2 weeks before, immediately before, and immediately after the diagnostic meeting. Each batch consisted of three samples taken in the evening, after awaking and 30 mins post-waking.

RESULTS: 22.7% (N = 10) of 44 invited patients and nine companions agreed, with 18.2% patients (N = 8) and 15.9% companions (N = 7) providing samples. Participants found that saliva collection was demanding and disrupted routines. On a purely descriptive level, some indications of an increased cortisol stress response in patients diagnosed with dementia were found in this very small sample. Researchers should expect low recruitment rates in this elderly population. Simpler collection procedures, e.g. pre-labelled packages with date/time, possible omission of morning samples and objective rather than self-report assessment of waking and saliva collection times-using actigraphy wrist-watches bleeps to prompt people at the timepoints and electronic track caps-might improve adherence and improve the accuracy of timepoints when swabs were actually collected.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Pages (from-to)30
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme (Grant Reference Number PB-PG-1111-26063), and supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Aged
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Dementia/diagnosis
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Friends
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Saliva


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