To describe the course of neuropsychiatric symptoms in nursing home residents with dementia during the step-by-step lifting of restrictions after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands, and to describe psychotropic drug use (PDU) throughout the whole first wave.
Longitudinal cohort study of nursing home residents with dementia. We measured neuropsychiatric symptoms using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory-Questionnaire (NPI-Q). From May to August 2020, the NPI-Q was filled in monthly. Psychotropic drug use was retrieved from the electronic prescription system, retrospectively for the months February to April and prospectively for the months May to August.
We followed 252 residents with dementia in 19 Dutch nursing homes. Agitation was the most prevalent type of neuropsychiatric symptom at each assessment. Overall, the prevalence and severity of agitation and depression significantly decreased over time. When considering more in detail, we observed that in some residents specific neuropsychiatric symptoms resolved (resolution) while in others specific neuropsychiatric symptoms developed (incidence) during the study period. For the majority of the residents, neuropsychiatric symptoms persisted over time. Psychotropic drug use remained stable over time throughout the whole first wave of the pandemic.
At group level, lifting the measures appeared to have beneficial effects on the prevalence and severity of agitation and depression in residents with dementia. Nevertheless, on an individual level we observed high heterogeneity in the course of neuropsychiatric symptoms over time. Despite the pressure of the pandemic and the restrictions in social contact imposed, PDU remained stable.