The role of the occupational therapist in the management of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia in clinical settings

Joyce Fraker, Helen C. Kales, Mary Blazek, Janet Kavanagh, Laura N. Gitlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) of dementia include aggression, agitation, depression, anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, apathy, and disinhibition. NPS affect dementia patients nearly universally across dementia stages and etiologies. They are associated with poor patient and caregiver outcomes, including increased health care utilization, excess morbidity and mortality, and earlier nursing home placement, as well as caregiver stress, depression and reduced employment. There are no FDA-approved medications for NPS, but it is a common clinical practice to use psychotropic medications such as antipsychotics, to control symptoms; however, antipsychotics show only modest efficacy in improving NPS and have significant risks for patients, including side effects and mortality. Nonpharmacologic treatments are considered first-line by multiple medical bodies and expert consensus, as they show evidence for efficacy and have limited potential for adverse effects. Ideally, nonpharmacological management of NPS in clinical settings occurs in multidisciplinary teams, where occupational therapists play an important collaborative role in the care of the person with dementia. Our group has articulated an evidence-informed structured approach to the management of NPS that can be integrated into diverse practice settings and used by providers of various disciplines. The "DICE" (Describe, Investigate, Create, and Evaluate) approach is inherently patient- and caregiver-centered, as patient and caregiver concerns are integral to each step of the process. DICE offers a clinical reasoning approach through which providers can more efficiently and effectively choose optimal treatment plans. The purpose of this paper is to describe the role of the occupational therapy in using the DICE approach for NPS management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-20
Number of pages17
JournalOccupational Therapy in Health Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Behavioral symptoms
  • Nonpharmacologic treatments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy


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