Assessment and Treatment Approaches for Behavioral Disturbances Associated With Dementia in the Nursing Home: Self-Reports of Physicians' Practices

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield*, Barbara Jensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objectives: Behavior problems are common in dementia, yet little is known about how physicians deal with these problems in practice. This article reports on a survey asking physicians to describe, with respect to the last nursing home resident with dementia they treated for behavior problems, the behaviors observed, assessment methods used, suspected etiology of the problem, types of intervention, and their reaction to the intervention process. Design: This is a descriptive study presenting responses to a Web-based questionnaire. Participants: Participants were 110 physicians providing services to nursing home residents. Measurements: Physicians answered a close-ended questionnaire with open-ended "other" options concerning symptoms, methods of assessment, suspected etiological factors, and interventions to describe the last nursing home resident they treated for behavior problems associated with dementia. Results: Resisting care was the most frequently reported symptom (71%). Physicians were most likely to attribute the behavior problems to the indirect effects of dementia on the ability to remember, communicate, and comprehend (67%). Most (87%) reported using more than one method for treating these problems. Rate of reported use of psychotropic drugs (80%) was slightly higher than that for nonpharmacological methods (75%), with the majority (61%) reporting use of both of these methods. Standardized instruments were not used in assessment. Forty percent of the participants reported feeling satisfied or very satisfied with the intervention they provided, and close to a third (32%) reported feeling frustrated with the intervention process. Conclusion: The data underscore the complexity in the treatment of behavior problems. Despite federal regulations limiting their use, the potential for side effects, and ambivalence toward such treatment, psychotropic drugs are still used for the majority of nursing home residents with behavior problems associated with dementia. On the other hand, physicians report employing nonpharmacological methods to a closely similar extent, although their role in the implementation of these treatments is less clear. Further work is needed to clarify physicians' involvement in and decision to use nonpharmacological interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-413
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2008


FundersFunder number
ADA Foundation


    • Behavior problems
    • agitation
    • dementia
    • treatment


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