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Can J Neurol Sci. 2001 Feb;28 Suppl 1:S96-107.

Recommendations for the management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

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Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and Sunnybrook & Women's College Health Sciences Centre, North York, ON, Canada.



The behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are common, serious problems that impair the quality of life for both patient and caregiver. In order to provide recommendations based upon the best available evidence, a qualitative literature review was performed.


A search of the English language medical literature published between 1966 and 2000 was performed. The quality of the studies was assessed by considering the subjects, trial design, analysis and results. Final recommendations were based upon the quality of available evidence.


The management of BPSD begins with a thorough assessment to search for underlying causes of behaviour change. Concomitant medical illness should be treated and sensory impairment ameliorated. Nonpharmacological approaches should be instituted prior to medication use. These interventions include music, light, changes in level of stimulation and specific behavioral techniques. Antipsychotics are the best studied pharmacological intervention for agitation and aggression and have demonstrated modest but consistent efficacy. Antidepressants such as trazodone and selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, as well as anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine and valproic acid have also demonstrated efficacy. Benzodiazepines can be used for short-term treatment as p.r.n. agents when necessary. Pharmacotherapy must be monitored closely for both effectiveness and side effects, with consideration of medication withdrawal when appropriate.


The management of BPSD can significantly improve the quality of life for the patient and caregiver. Their assessment and management are essential components of the treatment of dementia.

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