Psychiatric Symptoms in Patients With Dementia: Do Caregivers and Doctors See the Same Thing?

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Purpose:Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are common in Alzheimer Disease (AD). Treatment could be optimized by supplementing the clinician’s impression of a patient with information from the caregiver. Yet the agreement between caregivers and physicians on the presence of NPS in patients with AD is understudied.Methods:Data were obtained from a 2-staged survey in neurology outpatient offices. At stage 1, patients (n=403) were documented by their physicians, including an assessment on the presence of NPS. At stage 2, patients’ CGs (n=171) were asked about the presence of NPS in the patients, based on questions from the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Caregivers were screened for depression with the Depression Screening Questionnaire.Patients:The study sample comprised patients with mild or moderate AD.Results:NPS frequency varied between 52.6% [95% confidence interval (CI), 44.9%-60.3%] and 67.2% (95% CI, 59.7%-74.2%, reported by CGs) and 34.2% (95% CI, 26.8%-42.1%) and 50.9% (95% CI, 42.9%-58.9%, reported by physicians). Apathy, depression, aggression, and irritability occurred most frequently according to both sources. κ values were lowest for euphoria (κ=0.03; 95% CI, −0.08 to 0.25), and highest for depression (κ=0.26; 95% CI, 0.11-0.43). CG depression was associated with an increased probability (odds ratio=2.9; 95% CI, 1.2-6.7) of disagreement between caregivers and physicians on the patient’s mental status.Conclusion:NPS, though very prevalent in dementia patients, are perceived differently by caregivers and physicians. This divergence increases depending on the psychological health of caregivers.

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