Background: To clarify physicians’ actual practice in treating agitation in the nursing home and to elucidate the relationship between background factors, familiarity with interventions, and practice.
Methods: A survey of actual practice for agitation in persons with dementia was administered to 67 physicians aged 31–70+ working in nursing homes in Israel. Questionnaires were administered by personal interview, self-completed, or a combination of the two.
Results: Psychotropic medications are prescribed by 92.5% of physicians for treating agitation, most notably, Haloperidol (39%). Non-pharmacological treatment was also reported to be common, though to a lesser extent, with environmental change being the most prevalent non-pharmacological intervention. Generally, physicians showed low familiarity levels with non-pharmacological interventions, with higher levels noted for physicians with a specialty in geriatrics compared to those who were non-specialized. Physicians who were non-Israeli and younger also reported higher familiarity levels compared to their respective counterparts (i.e. Israeli and older) but this difference did not reach significance.
Conclusion: The findings indicate that, despite current guidelines, psychotropic medications are the treatment of choice among nursing home physicians in Israel. While rates of use of non-pharmacological interventions are substantial, their in-practice application may be hindered by lack of familiarity as well as system barriers. The results have implications for system and education changes.