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Dementia is a neurodegenerative syndrome that interferes with multiple aspects of life, including cognition, daily functioning, and behavior. Despite the large heterogeneity in symptom development, these three domains are seldom studied simultaneously. This study investigates how trajectories of these domains are interrelated within individuals over time, and how they in turn are related to dementia severity and quality of life (QoL).
We used data from a longitudinal clinical cohort study, including 331 dementia patients. Cognitive status was measured using the Mini-Mental State Examination, daily functioning was measured with the disability assessment for dementia and neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) were scored using the neuropsychiatric inventory. We investigated the relationships in the time course of the various dementia domains using random effects multilevel models and parallel-process growth models.
Changes in cognition and daily functioning were highly correlated over time (r = 0.85, p < 0.01), as were changes in NPS and functioning (r = −0.60, p < 0.01), while changes in cognition and NPS were not (r = −0.20, p = 0.06). All three domains were strongly associated with dementia severity over time (p < 0.01). Decreased functioning and increased NPS were both associated with decreased QoL (β = 2.97, p < 0.01 and β = −2.41, p < 0.01, respectively), while cognition was not (β = 0.01, p = 0.93).
This study demonstrates the heterogeneity of dementia progression between individuals and between different dementia domains within individuals. To improve our understanding of dementia progression, future research should embrace a broader perspective encompassing multiple outcome measures along with the patient's profile, including neurological factors as well as physical, social, and psychiatric health.
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