UQ Psychology’s Affiliate Associate Professor Gerard Byrne from the UQ School of Medicine’s Discipline of Psychiatry has developed the Informant Questionnaire for Anxiety in Dementia (IQAD) to assist clinicians with the detection of anxiety in older patients with dementia. In close collaboration with Professor Nancy Pachana in the School of Psychology, this research is helping clinicians to tease out the often overlooked symptoms of anxiety in their patients with dementia.
According to Dr Byrne, there is no widely accepted instrument to assess anxiety in dementia. Anxiety commonly co-occurs with dementia, and is associated with worse quality of life, problem behaviors, limitations in activities of daily living, nighttime awakenings and poorer neuropsychological performance, even after controlling for depression.
“Anxiety is very common in older people with dementia—and it is often not diagnosed or treated,” said Dr Byrne. “And yet until recently there has been little research on measuring anxiety in people with dementia.”
Dr Byrne said that assessing anxiety in older people, particularly those with early cognitive decline or dementia, was difficult. Often staff in nursing homes do not possess the right tools to assess anxiety in their patients with dementia.
Appropriate diagnosis and treatment is important, as nursing home residents with anxiety are significantly more likely to be prescribed antipsychotic medication with subsequent increased risk of stroke and death.
“Often in a patient with dementia a non-pharmacological approach to relieving anxiety may be best for the patient.” said Dr Byrne. “However, a better method of assessing response to treatment is needed.”
The IQAD is brief at 10 items, and is filled out by a staff or family member who knows the patient well. The IQAD items are based upon items from Byrne and Pachana’s successful Geriatric Anxiety Inventory (GAI). Validation studies with the IQAD are on-going both in Australia as well as overseas in the Netherlands and Portugal.
“Gerard and I are also looking at developing behavioural treatment protocols for depression and anxiety in persons with dementia,” said Dr Pachana. “This type of research is needed at the moment to improve mental health and quality of life for persons with dementia, especially those residing in long term care institutions.”
Information about the IQAD can be obtained from Dr Byrne at email@example.com. The GAI is available free of charge for non-commercial use by individual clinicians or researchers. Further information can be found on the GAI website.