Prevalence and Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Advanced Dementia

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Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are common in dementia, although little is known about their prevalence and treatment near the end of life. This study used a retrospective review of the medical records of 123 hospice-eligible nursing home residents with advanced dementia to investigate the prevalence of NPS and NPS-targeted pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments. The most prevalent NPS were agitation or aggression (50.4%), depression (45.5%), and withdrawal/lethargy (43.1%). Of the 105 (85.4%) residents who exhibited one or more NPS, 90.5% were receiving at least one NPS-targeted treatment, yet 41.9% received no documented nonpharmacological NPS-targeted care. The majority of documented nonpharmacological care focused on safety and explanations or instructions given to residents. Given the high prevalence of comorbidities, associated risks for medication interactions or serious side effects, and potential low-risk benefits of psychobehavioral care, these findings raise concerns about how to best increase the provision and documentation of nonpharmacological care in advanced dementia.

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