Discomfort in dementia patients dying from pneumonia and its relief by antibiotics

Scand J Infect Dis. 2009;41(2):143-51. doi: 10.1080/00365540802616726.


Dementia patients frequently die after a pneumonia or prolonged intake problems. Maintaining comfort is a goal of palliative care in end-stage dementia. To compare discomfort in dementia patients dying after a pneumonia with patients dying after intake problems, and to assess associations with treatment, we combined 2 Dutch prospective studies. We selected 559 pneumonia patients and 166 patients with intake problems who had no pneumonia. Discomfort was observed with the Discomfort Scale - Dementia of Alzheimer Type (DS-DAT). Linear regression was performed with the dependent DS-DAT levels shortly before death in 314 patients who died within 2 weeks. Compared with discomfort in patients with intake problems, unadjusted and adjusted discomfort in patients with pneumonia was higher both at t 0 and before death. In adjusted analyses, antibiotic treatment (mostly oral) was associated with less discomfort before death (beta -1.1, CI -2.2 - -0.03), while invasive rehydration (received by only 8 patients) was associated with more discomfort (beta 3.5, CI 0.6 - 6.3). Death from pneumonia may cause great suffering in dementia patients. If confirmed in a study with different case mix and treatments, antibiotics may be used to decrease discomfort even when death is imminent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Dementia / complications*
  • Dementia / therapy
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Nutritional Support
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Pneumonia / complications*
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents