International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

Relationship between delirium and behavioral symptoms of dementia

Philippe Landrevillea1a3 c1, Philippe Voyera2a3 and Pierre-Hugues Carmichaela3

a1 School of Psychology, Université Laval, Québec, Canada

a2 Faculty of Nursing, Université Laval, Québec, Canada

a3 Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec, Québec, Canada


Background: Persons with dementia frequently present behavioral and psychological symptoms as well as delirium. However, the association between these has received little attention from researchers and current knowledge in this area is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine the relation between delirium and behavioral symptoms of dementia (BSD).

Methods: Participants were 155 persons with a diagnosis of dementia, 109 (70.3%) of whom were found delirious according to the Confusion Assessment Method. BSD were assessed using the Nursing Home Behavior Problem Scale.

Results: Participants with delirium presented significantly more BSD than participants without delirium. More specifically, they presented more wandering/trying to leave, sleep problems, and irrational behavior after controlling for cognitive problems and use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines. Most relationships between participant characteristics and BSD did not differ according to the presence or absence of delirium, but some variables, notably sleep problems, were more strongly associated to BSD in persons with delirium.

Conclusions: Although correlates of BSD in persons with delirium superimposed on dementia are generally similar to those in persons with dementia alone, delirium is associated with a higher level of BSD. Results of this study have practical implications for the detection of delirium superimposed on dementia, the management of behavioral disturbances in patients with delirium, and caregiver burden.

(Received August 15 2012)

(Reviewed October 08 2012)

(Revised November 20 2012)

(Accepted November 20 2012)

(Online publication December 20 2012)

Key words:

  • delirium;
  • behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia;
  • dementia


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Philippe Landreville, PhD, School of psychology, Université Laval, Pavillon Félix-Antoine-Savard, 2325 rue des Bibliothèques, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada. Phone: +418-656-2131 (3024); Fax: +418-656-3646. Email: