What Are the Barriers to Performing Nonpharmacological Interventions for Behavioral Symptoms in the Nursing Home?

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield*, Khin Thein, Marcia S. Marx, Maha Dakheel-Ali

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Behavioral symptoms are common in persons with dementia, and nonpharmacological interventions are recommended as the first line of therapy. We describe barriers to conducting nonpharmacological interventions for behavioral symptoms. Design: A descriptive study of barriers to intervention delivery in a controlled trial. Settings: The study was conducted in six nursing homes in Maryland. Participants: Participants were 89 agitated nursing home residents with dementia. Intervention: Personalized interventions were developed using the Treatment Routes for Exploring Agitation decision tree protocol. Trained research assistants prepared and delivered the interventions. Feasibility of the interventions was determined. Measurements: Barriers to Intervention Delivery Assessment, activities of daily living, cognitive functioning, depressed affect, pain, observed agitation, and observed affect. Results: Barriers were observed for the categories of resident barriers (specifically, unwillingness to participate; resident attributes, such as unresponsive), barriers related to resident unavailability (resident asleep or eating), and external barriers (staff-related barriers, family-related barriers, environmental barriers, and system process variables). Interventions pertaining to food/drink and to 1-on-1 socializing were found to have the fewest barriers, whereas higher numbers of barriers occurred with puzzles/board games and arts and crafts activities. Moreover, when successful interventions were presented to participants after the feasibility period, we noted fewer barriers, presumably because barrier identification had been used to better tailor interventions to each participant and to the environment. Conclusion: Knowledge of barriers provides a tool by which to tailor interventions so as to anticipate or circumvent barriers, thereby maximizing intervention delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-405
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2012


FundersFunder number
National Institute on Aging


    • Agitation
    • Barriers
    • Dementia
    • Interventions
    • Nonpharmacological


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