Our expert answers 3 Questions
I am thinking about how the non-cognitive symptoms of dementia (such as aggression or delusions) influence how patients utilize the healthcare system. Many people think of dementia primarily in terms of memory loss, though often these non-cognitive symptoms are the most distressing and challenging parts of dementia for patients, caregivers, and providers.
With the aging of the population and increased lifespan, these behaviors have huge practical implications for healthcare as the number of patients with dementia grows. When patients and caregivers are in distress, they will often first turn to the healthcare system for assistance. However, they might really need education, training, or psychosocial services that the healthcare system is not necessarily well-equipped to provide. It is important that we figure out ways to identify and help patients and providers in distress in order to proactively provide the care that they need.
As a psychiatrist, these behaviors are interesting as they can arise from a host of factors, both internal (pain or an acute medical problem) and external (crowded environment) to the patient. But due to the patient’s cognitive changes, he or she may not be able to help describe the cause of their distress. As a health services researcher, it is exciting to think about how a healthcare system can be proactive in identifying and delivering care to patients with dementia and their caregivers.