OBJECTIVES: This study investigates the stability of neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) assessed biweekly using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) in a memory clinic population during a 6 week period. METHODS: Twenty-three spousal caregivers (mean [SD] age = 69.7 [8.8], 82.6% female) of 23 patients (43.5% had dementia) completed all assessments. The NPI was assessed four times during 6 weeks. We examined whether NPI domains were present during all four assessments, studied within-person variation for each NPI domain, and calculated Spearman's correlations between subsequent time-points. Furthermore, we associated repeated NPI assessments with repeated measures of caregiver burden to examine the clinical impact of changes in NPI scores over time. RESULTS: The course of NPS was highly irregular according to the NPI, with only 35.8% of the NPI domains that were present at baseline persisted during all 6 weeks. We observed large within-person variation in the presence of individual NPI domains (61.3%, range 37.5%-83.9%) and inconsistent correlations between NPI assessments (e.g., range rs = 0.20-0.57 for agitation, range rs = 0.29-0.59 for anxiety). Higher NPI total scores were related to higher caregiver burden (rs = 0.60, p < 0.001), but changes in NPI total scores were unrelated to changes in caregiver burden (rs = 0.16, p = 0.20). CONCLUSIONS: We observed strong fluctuations in NPI scores within very short time windows raising the question whether this represents erratic symptoms and/or scores. Further studies are needed to investigate the origins of these fluctuations.
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© 2022 The Authors. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.