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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.
Background: Apathy is a common and important behavioral syndrome in various neuropsychiatric diseases, such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). So far, only few studies have compared the neuropsychological correlates of apathy in patients with MCI and dementia. The aim of the current study was to examine the association between apathy and neuropsychological functioning in patients with MCI and AD.
Methods: Two-hundred-and-sixty AD patients and 178 MCI patients visiting the Memory Clinic of the Maastricht University Medical Centre participated in the study. Linear regression analysis, corrected for age, gender, level of education and depression, was performed to reveal cross-sectional associations between apathy and scores on neuropsychological tests of memory, attention, psychomotor speed and executive functioning.
Results: In patients with MCI, apathy was characterized by decreased verbal fluency and psychomotor tracking. In AD, patients with apathy differed from non-apathetic patients only on a verbal fluency task.
Conclusion: Apathy is related to executive dysfunction in the early phases of cognitive decline. In particular, in the prodromal phase of AD, apathy seems to be characterized by poor initiating. In the more advanced stages of cognitive deterioration, associations between apathy and specific neuropsychological correlates may be obscured by the more severe neuropathology. Awareness of apathy in the early phase of cognitive impairment may help in early diagnosis of AD.
Background: The results of studies of the association between awareness and clinical correlates in patients with dementia are inconclusive. The aims of this study were to investigate whether awareness changed during the course of dementia and to determine whether awareness was associated with certain behavioral symptoms. Specifically, it was hypothesized that relatively intact awareness was related to affective disorders.
Methods: One hundred and ninety-nine patients with dementia were included in a prospective 18-month follow-up study. Behavioral problems were assessed with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory and the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia. Awareness was assessed by means of the Guidelines for the Rating of Awareness Deficits.
Results: Cross-sectional analyses showed awareness to be positively associated with age, gender, education and socioeconomic status, and negatively associated with psychosis, apathy, and overall behavioral disorders at baseline. After 1 year, a higher level of awareness was related to depression and anxiety. The level of awareness at baseline also predicted depression and anxiety after 1 year. Awareness decreased during the study.
Conclusions: A higher level of awareness is associated with subsyndromal depression and anxiety, whereas lack of awareness is associated with psychosis and apathy. The level of awareness decreases as dementia progresses. Clinicians should be more alert to changes in awareness in patients with dementia because psychosocial support might help to prevent the development of affective symptoms.
Background:Reports in the literature on the effects of behavioral problems in patients with dementia on the decision to institutionalize the patient have shown conflicting results. Few studies have taken into account the possibility that specific behavioral problems may have differential effects on the decision to institutionalize the patient. Moreover, it is probably not patient behavior itself that causes nursing home placement (NHP), but caregivers’ emotional reaction to it. The aim of the present study was to examine the impact of specific behavioral subsyndromes and caregivers’ emotional reaction on NHP.
Methods:A total of 119 patients with dementia and their informal caregivers were followed up for 2 years. Time to NHP was measured in months from the date of the baseline interview to the date of NHP. Behavioral disturbances in the patient and caregivers’ emotional reactions were measured with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI). Cox regression analyses were used to determine the probability that caregivers would institutionalize the patient when patient behavioral problems or caregiver distress were present at baseline.
ResultsForty-one percent of the patients were institutionalized during the 2-year follow-;up. Caregiver distress related to patient behavior was a significant predictor of NHP, while behavior in itself did not predict NHP. Contrary to our expectations, we did not find a differential impact of specific aspects of problem behavior. Children caregivers, especially daughters, were associated with shorter time to NHP compared to spouses.
Conclusions:Our findings indicate that the caregiver's emotional reaction to patient behavior is more important than problem behaviors per se in the decision to institutionalize patients. Interventions aimed at teaching caregivers strategies to better manage difficult patient behaviors may provide caregivers with the necessary resources to continue care at home. Future interventions need to account for the specific needs and problems of different caregiver groups.
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