Background: Behavioral and psychological symptoms in dementia (BPSD) are common and distressing for patients and caregivers, but little is known about the natural history of these symptoms, particularly among patients in care facilities. This information is essential for informed clinical management. We report a 1-year follow-up study of the prevalence, incidence, and outcome of the 3 main BPSD (agitation, depression, and psychosis) in care facilities.
Method: 136 elderly residents with dementia (29% living in social care facilities and 71% in nursing home care) were assessed longitudinally on 2 occasions a year apart using a range of standardized psychiatric schedules, including the Neuropsychiatric Inventory.
Results: The overall prevalence of BPSD was stable over the year (76% at baseline and 82% at follow-up). Subjects with subclinical symptoms at baseline were more likely to develop clinically significant BPSD during follow-up than those who were symptom free (83% vs. 52%; Mann-Whitney U test, z = 2.36, p = .01). Agitation was the most common individual syndrome (55%). Although overall BPSD were persistent, > or = 45% of dementia patients with any of the major syndromes experienced resolution, indicating the development of different BPSD in many residents. There was no evidence that residents taking neuroleptics were more likely to experience resolution of BPSD than neuroleptic-free residents.
Conclusion: BPSD are highly frequent and persistent among residents of care facilities with dementia. This emphasizes the need for ongoing treatment trials. The pattern of resolution with the development of new symptoms indicates that short focused periods of treatment may be a more effective management approach. In addition, the potential value in treating patients with subclinical BPSD to prevent the development of full-blown syndromes needs to be investigated.