A mixed methods study on the manifestations of behavioural symptoms of dementia among veterans with and without posttraumatic stress disorder.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


To explore how behavioural symptoms of dementia are manifested among veterans in residential long-term care settings, in the context of personal, interpersonal/social and environmental triggers and how the manifestations differ between veterans with and without posttraumatic stress disorder.


Secondary analysis using a mixed methods approach.


We analysed text data from a stratified random sample of 66 cases derived from the programme evaluation dataset of the Staff Training in Assisted Living Residences-Veterans Health Administration (STAR-VA) intervention from 2013 to 2016, using framework analysis. The detailed behavioural assessment descriptions in this dataset are consistent with contemporary non-pharmacologic symptom management. Qualitative categories were converted to quantitative variables for two group comparisons.


Four patterns emerged linking specific types of triggers and behavioural symptoms: (1) unmet physical needs or emotional distress triggers non-aggressive behaviours; (2) unsolicited direct care approach triggers care refusal, resistance or combativeness; (3) interpersonal interactions interfering with self-direction trigger aggressive behaviours; and (4) uncontrolled stimulation from environments trigger non-aggressive behaviours. The organisational culture of care influenced how staff conceptualised behavioural symptoms. Veterans with co-existing posttraumatic stress disorder and dementia tended to exhibit rejection of care with aggression compared to those with dementia alone.


Contextualised accounts of behavioural symptoms of dementia revealed symptom heterogeneity, with different clusters of multi-level triggers arising from specific personal, interpersonal and environmental circumstances. Distinct patterns of symptom manifestations between veterans with and without posttraumatic stress disorder suggest a tailored approach is required to meet each veteran's unique biopsychosocial needs.


Classifying behavioural symptoms with their triggers rather than solely by behaviours provides important new information for developing person-centred, non-pharmacological interventions to improve outcomes for veterans with dementia. Multi-level interventions should be considered to meet veteran's needs that account for their earlier life history and current life circumstances.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kang, B; Karel, MJ; Corazzini, KN; McConnell, ES

Published Date

  • July 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 77 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 3176 - 3188

PubMed ID

  • 33969916

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1365-2648

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0309-2402

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/jan.14864


  • eng