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Symptoms of apathy and passivity in dementia: A simultaneous concept analysis.

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Published:1st Feb 2019
Author: Gilmore-Bykovskyi A, Block L, Johnson R, Goris ED.
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Ref.:J Clin Nurs. 2019;28(3-4):410-419.

Aims and objectives: The objective of this analysis was to clarify the concepts of apathy and passivity in the context of dementia by identifying distinguishing and overlapping attributes for both concepts simultaneously.

Background: Apathy is among the most common and persistent symptoms in dementia. The concept of apathy is often used interchangeably with passivity. Understanding similarities and differences between these concepts is of critical importance in clarifying clinical diagnostic criteria, developing consistent measurement in research and translating research evidence into nursing practice.

Design: A systematic literature search of multiple databases identified relevant articles for review. A modified combination of Haase et al.'s simultaneous concept analysis method and Morses’ principle?based concept analysis using qualitative content and thematic analysis procedures was applied to identify overlapping and distinguishing attributes.

Methods: A search of PubMed, CINAHL and PsycINFO databases identified 176 articles meeting inclusion criteria. The concepts of apathy and passivity were characterised using a standardised manual to identify attributes of definitions (conceptual and operational), related conditions, functional, behavioural and neurobiological correlates, antecedents and consequences. Thematic analysis identified common themes across each category which were tabulated and entered into comparative matrices to identify overlapping and distinguishing features.

Results: There is considerable overlap across attributes of apathy and passivity. Apathy is distinguished as a clinical syndrome characterised by loss of motivation not due to emotional distress or cognitive impairment. Passivity is distinguished as a lack of interaction between the individual and environment in the context of cognitive impairment.

Conclusion: In contrast to passivity, apathy is a more robustly defined concept focused on motivational limitations within the individual associated with specific neuroanatomical deficits.

Relevance to clinical practice: The identification of key distinguishing features of apathy and passivity in dementia is a critical first step in ensuring consistent measurement of each concept.


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