Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment preferences of healthcare professionals and proxies for challenging behaviors in patients with dementia

Sarah I. Janus*, Jeanette G. van Manen, Janine A. Van Til, Sytse U. Zuidema, Maarten J. Ijzerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Prescribing antipsychotics to patients with neuropsychiatric symptoms is a matter of concern. Physicians have to make treatment decisions for patients with dementia together with proxies and/or nurses. However, it is unknown whether physicians, nurses, and proxies' treatment preferences are aligned; hence this study.

Methods: Sixteen treatment attributes were selected to elicit the preferences of physicians and nurses. Ten of these attributes were used for the proxies. Preferences were estimated using a case-1 Best-Worst-Scaling design; respondents are asked to select the best and worst attribute on being presented with a hypothetical patient with dementia demonstrating neuropsychiatric symptoms. The treatments offered are: antipsychotic treatment or non-pharmaceutical regimens.

Results: The questionnaire was filled in by 41 physicians, 81 nurses, and 59 proxies. The non-pharmacological treatment option was chosen by 52% of the proxies and 71% of the physicians and nurses. The respondents who chose antipsychotics rated the aspects fastest result and most effective as important. Physicians ranked experience with antipsychotics as an important aspect for prescribing antipsychotics. Only the proxies rated the aspect having a low negative effect on the patient as important. The nurses and elderly care physicians who chose the non-pharmaceutical treatment ranked appropriateness and of little burden to the patient as important aspects.

Conclusions: While doctors and nurses prefer non-pharmacological interventions, proxies indicated a preference for pharmacological treatment because of the immediate effect. However, physicians follow treatment guidelines and nurses and proxies rely on the physician's recommendations. We suggest physicians should be sensitive to these differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1389
Number of pages13
JournalInternational psychogeriatrics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • dementia
  • nursing homes
  • psychopharmacology
  • 22/4 OA procedure


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