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Nursing home (NH) residents with dementia is exposed to high rates of psychotropic prescriptions. Our objectives were to: (1) pool the prevalence estimates of psychotropic polypharmacy from the existing literature and (2) examine potentially influential factors that are related to a higher or lower prevalence.
Meta-analysis of data collected from randomized trials, quasi-experimental, prospective or retrospective cohort, and cross-sectional studies. English-language searches of PubMed and PsycINFO were completed by November 2020. Included studies reported prevalence estimates of psychotropic polypharmacy (i.e. defined as either two-or-more or three-or-more medications concurrently) in NH residents with dementia.
Setting and Participants:
NH residents with dementia.
Random-effects models were used to pool the prevalence of psychotropic polypharmacy in NH residents with dementia across studies. Estimates were provided for both two-or-more and three-or-more concurrent medications. Heterogeneity and publication bias were measured. Meta-regression examined the influence of the percentage of the sample who were male, mean age of the sample, geographic region (continent), sample size, and study year on the prevalence of psychotropic polypharmacy.
Twenty-five unique articles were included comprising medications data from 92,370 NH residents with dementia in 12 countries. One-in-three (33%, [95% CI: 28%, 39%]) NH residents with dementia received two-or-more psychotropic medications concurrently. One-in-eight (13%, [95% CI: 10%, 17%]) received three-or-more psychotropic medications concurrently. Estimates were highly variable across both definitions of psychotropic polypharmacy (p < 0.001). Among study-level demographics, geographic region, sample size, or study year, only male sex was associated with greater use of two-or-more psychotropic medications (Unadjusted OR = 1.02, p = 0.006; Adjusted OR = 1.04, p = 0.07).
Psychotropic polypharmacy is common among NH residents with dementia. Identifying the causes of utilization and the effects on resident health and well-being should be prioritized by federal entities seeking to improve NH quality.
Agitation and aggression in adult psychiatric patients with psychoses and in persons with dementia increase the burden of disease and frequently cause hospitalization. The implementation of currently available management strategies and the development of new ones is hindered by inconsistent terminology that confuses agitation with aggression. This confusion is maintained by many rating scales that fail to distinguish between these two syndromes. We review the frequently used rating scales with a particular focus on their ability to separate agitation from aggression. Agitation and aggression are two different syndromes. For example, reactive aggression is often precipitated by rejection of care and may not be associated with agitation per se. We propose, in treatment studies of behavioral symptoms of dementia and challenging behaviors in psychoses, that outcomes should be evaluated separately for agitation and aggression. This is important for investigation of drug effectiveness since the medication may be effective against one syndrome but not the other. Separate assessments of agitation and aggression should be a general principle of trial design with particular salience for registration studies of medications proposed for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies.
People with dementia may benefit from palliative care which specifically addresses the needs of patients and families affected by this life-limiting disease. On behalf of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), we recently performed a Delphi study to define domains for palliative care in dementia and to provide recommendations for optimal care. An international panel of experts in palliative care, dementia care or both, achieved consensus on almost all domains and recommendations, but the domain concerning the applicability of palliative care to dementia required revision.
To examine in detail, the opinions of the international panel of 64 experts around the applicability of palliative care, we explored feedback they provided in the Delphi process. To examine which experts found it less important or less applicable, ordinal regression analyses related characteristics of the panelists to ratings of overall importance of the applicability domain, and to agreement with the domain's four recommendations.
Some experts expressed concerns about bringing up end-of-life issues prematurely and about relabeling dementia care as palliative care. Multivariable analyses with the two outcomes of importance and agreement with applicability indicated that younger or less experienced experts and those whose expertise was predominantly in dementia care found palliative care in dementia less important and less applicable.
Benefits of palliative care in dementia are acknowledged by experts worldwide, but there is some controversy around its early introduction. Further studies should weigh concerns expressed around care receiving a “palliative” label versus the benefits of applying palliative care early.
Despite mounting evidence that principles of palliative care are appropriate in care for individuals with dementia they are often not applied. As a result, patients with dementia are often exposed to burdensome interventions that have little or no benefit and are not provided with psychosocial treatments.
Recommendations for applying palliative care principles in caring for people with dementia are provided, based on the WHO definition of palliative care, our clinical experience and some key literature reports.
People with a diagnosis of an irreversible dementia such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and their families are rarely informed that this is a terminal disease and palliative care principles are not discussed with them. They are applicable early in the course of illness when the person can still make end-of-life decisions. Palliative care can be used in conjunction with other therapies and services, such as hospice care that provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms. The care should include keeping people with dementia involved in meaningful activities which decrease or eliminate behavioral symptoms of dementia.
Educating families and professionals about palliative care is important as many professionals and non-professionals believe that this approach intends to hasten death, instead of affirming life and regarding dying as a normal process. Living, not just existing, with a dementing illness involves encouraging the person to continue to be involved in meaningful activities. Medical interventions should be compatible with goals of care and balance benefits and burdens for each intervention taking into consideration severity of dementia.
Background: The End-of-Life in Dementia (EOLD) scales comprise the most specific set of instruments developed for evaluations of patients' end of life by their families. It is not known whether the EOLD scales are useful for cross-national comparisons.
Methods: We used a mortality follow-back design in multi-center studies in the Netherlands (pilot study 2005–2007) and the U.S.A. (1999), and we compared EOLD Satisfaction With Care (SWC; last three months of life), Symptom Management (SM; last three months) and Comfort Assessment in Dying (CAD) scores for 54 Dutch and 76 U.S. nursing home residents.
Results: SWC total scores did not differ significantly between the Dutch and U.S. studies (31.9, SD 4.7 versus 30.4, SD 6.1), but three of ten items were rated more favorable for Dutch residents, as were SM total scores (29.1, SD 9.2 versus 20.4, SD 10.6). CAD total scores did not differ (32.0, SD 5.4 versus 30.5, SD 5.9, respectively), but the “well-being” subscale was rated more favorably for Dutch residents. Results were similar after adjustment for demographics and dementia severity.
Conclusion: The Dutch families rated end of life with dementia in nursing homes as somewhat better than did U.S. families. Although differences were small, the observed patterns were consistent. This suggests validity of the SM and CAD to assess differences in quality of dying and possible sensitivity to differences between countries or time frames. Larger, simultaneous, cross-national studies are needed to confirm usefulness of the scales and to detect areas which need improvement in the respective countries.
In the UK, research continues to confirm that people with certain chronic illnesses, such as chronic lung disease and cardiac failure, represent the ‘disadvantaged dying’ compared to those with terminal cancer. But what is the situation for people dying with advanced dementia and what is the experience of their carers? Practical guidance for clinicians is scarce. In Standard 7 of the National Service Framework for Older People, which covers mental health, there is mention neither of how care should be provided nor of how patient choice should be ensured for people with dementia at the end of life. In the UK, 5% of the population aged 65 and over and 20% of those aged 80 and over have dementia similar prevalence figures are found in the USA. Current predictions suggest that the number of people with dementia will increase by 40% by 2026 and will double by 2050. The increased demand for end-of-life care for people with dementia will be associated with major social and economic costs, but what is the current standard of such care? How can the quality be improved? And how should future services be configured to cope with this increasing need? In this paper, we review current knowledge around end-of-life care in dementia, discuss the clinical challenges and ethical dilemmas presented to carers, consider the difficulties in delivering such care and suggest practical approaches to improve the quality of such care.
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