Background: Behavioral and psychological symptoms, such as verbal or physical aggression, aberrant motor behaviors, psychotic symptoms, anxiety, depressive symptoms and apathy are common among people with dementia. The aim of the present study was to compare the one-week prevalence of behavioral and psychological symptoms and psychotropic drug treatment among people with cognitive impairment living in institutional care, in two large, comparable samples from 2000 and 2007.
Methods: A comparison was made between two cross-sectional samples, collected in 2000 and 2007, comprising 4054 participants with cognitive impairment living in geriatric care units in the county of Västerbotten, Sweden. The Multi-Dimensional Dementia Assessment Scale (MDDAS) was used to assess cognitive impairment and behavioral and psychological symptoms. The use of psychotropic drugs was recorded.
Results: Between 2000 and 2007, 15 out of 39 behavioral or psychological symptoms had become less common and no symptoms had become more common, after controlling for demographic changes. Four out of six behaviors within the cluster of aggressive behaviors had declined in prevalence. Patients prescribed anti-dementia drugs increased from 5.1% to 18.0% and antidepressant drug use increased from 43.2% to 49.1%, while anxiolytic, hypnotic, sedative and antipsychotic drug use remained largely unchanged.
Conclusion: The prevalence of many behavioral symptoms had declined from 2000 to 2007, and among these changes, the decline in aggressive behaviors probably has the greatest clinical impact.