Background: Limited literature exists regarding the clinical features of end stage behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD). This data is indispensable to inform and prepare family members as well as professional caregivers for the expected disease course and to anticipate with drug-based and non-pharmacological treatment strategies.
Objective: The aim of the present study was to describe end stage bvFTD in a broad explorative manner and to subsequently evaluate similarities and dissimilarities with the end stage of the most prevalent form of young-onset dementia, Alzheimer's disease (yoAD).
Methods: We analyzed medical files on patients, using a mixed model of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Included were previously deceased patients with probable bvFTD and probable yoAD. End stage was defined as the last 6 months prior to death. Primary outcome measures comprised somatic, neurological, and psychiatric symptoms and the secondary outcome measure was cause of death.
Results: Out of 89 patients, a total of 30 patients were included (bvFTD; n = 12, yoAD; n = 18). Overall, the end stages of bvFTD and yoAD were characterized by a broad spectrum of clinical symptoms including severe autonomic dysfunction and an increased muscle tone. Patients with bvFTD displayed more mutism compared with yoAD while compulsiveness was only present in bvFTD.
Conclusion: Our study describes the full clinical spectrum of end stage bvFTD and yoAD. In this study, symptoms extend far beyond the initial behavioral and cognitive features. By taking both somatic, psychiatric, and neurological features into account, family members and professional caregivers may anticipate (non) pharmacological treatment.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; disorders of the autonomic nervous system; frontotemporal dementia; nursing homes; palliative care.