Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia: advanced disease stages and death. A step to palliative care

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of the present study was to gain insight into the living and care situation in advanced behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), to describe symptoms and findings in advanced bvFTD, and to evaluate somatic comorbidities and circumstances of death.

Methods

Standardized interviews were conducted with family caregivers of 83 patients with bvFTD. Forty-four percent of the patients were already deceased at the time of the interview.

Results

At the time of the interview or death, respectively, 47% of the patients lived in a nursing home. The median time between symptom onset and nursing home admission was 5.0 ± 5.5 years. In moderate and severe dementia stages almost all patients suffered from severe disabilities including impairment of language, gait, swallowing, and of the ability to care for themselves. Sixteen percent of the patients had got enteral tube feeding. Comorbid somatic diseases were diagnosed in 46% of the patients. Twenty-three percent of the deceased patients had been admitted into a hospital before death. Cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease, mostly pneumonia, were the most frequent causes of death.

Conclusions

Advanced bvFTD is characterized by severe cognitive impairment and physical disabilities. BvFTD leads to a premature death. Our findings stress the importance of strategies that maximize patient comfort in advanced disease stages and allow for a peaceful death.

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