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Family carers' responses to behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia

Objectives: To describe the responses of family carers to the behavioural and psychological symptoms associated with dementia.

Methods: Thirty family carers of people with dementia were identified in a survey of mental disorder in general practice. Another 20 were referred by local aged mental health services. Carers were interviewed using the Manchester and Oxford University Scale for the Psychopathological Assessment of Dementia (MOUSEPAD) which rates behavioural and psychological disturbances. Carers' customary responses to current symptoms were recorded verbatim and categorised using a structured typology.

Results: Symptom frequency increased in line with dementia severity. Disturbances were generally well tolerated. Most were ignored where possible, except for wandering from home. Other common responses included avoiding triggers, providing reassurance, reality orientation, diversion, and collusion with false beliefs. Restrictive or punitive responses were uncommon.

Conclusions: Few carers articulated clear strategies to deal with behavioural and psychological symptoms. For most, tolerance proved more effective and less distressing than arguments and reprimands. Carers' responses are likely to be influenced by social and cultural factors and may differ in other settings. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

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Social care online
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