Evidence suggests that community dwelling older adults (CDOA) are at risk for dysphagia (swallowing difficulties). Dysphagia is often unidentified until related morbidities like under nutrition or pneumonia occur. These cases of unidentified dysphagia, prior to any clinical intervention, may be termed ‘pre-clinical dysphagia’. Identifying pre-clinical dysphagia is challenged by the lack of validated tools appropriate for CDOA. This study addresses preliminary development of a novel patient reported outcome (PRO) screening tool for pre-clinical dysphagia. Initially, 34 questions were developed from literature review and expert opinion. Following pilot testing (n = 53), the questionnaire was revised and tested on 335 additional CDOA. Face validity, content validity, item analysis, reliability (internal consistency), and construct validity (exploratory factor analysis) measures were completed. Psychometric validation resulted in a 17-question PRO tool. Construct analysis identified a three-factor model that explained 67.345% of the variance. Emergent factors represented swallowing effort, physical function, and cognitive function. The results revealed strong construct validity and internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = 0.90). A novel, simple PRO incorporating multiple function domains associated with aging demonstrated strong preliminary psychometric properties. This tool is more comprehensive and aging-focused than existing dysphagia screening tools. Inclusion of multiple domains may be key in early identification of pre-clinical dysphagia.
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