Background Dementia is affecting both the person with the disease and the family members. It is associated with nursing home admission, and a reduced ability to perform personal activities of daily living (P-ADL). The aim of this study was to examine the association between the severity of dementia and P-ADL function, and to study if additional factors such as neuropsychiatric symptoms, type of nursing home unit, and use of medication were associated with P-ADL function. Methods A total of 582 nursing home residents with dementia, included at admission to the nursing home, were followed with biannual assessments for 36 months. P-ADL was assessed using the Physical Self-Maintenance scale, and severity of dementia was measured with the Clinical Dementia Rating scale. In addition, neuropsychiatric symptoms, general physical health, and use of medications were assessed at the same time points. Demographic information was collected at baseline. Linear mixed models were estimated. Results There was a significant (p < 0.05) non-linear decline in P-ADL function over time in analysis not adjusting for any characteristics. More severe dementia at baseline and at the follow-up assessments was associated with lower P-ADL function (p < 0.001), with the association being stable over time. A higher level of neuropsychiatric symptoms, not using anti-dementia medication, being in a regular care unit as compared to a special care unit and having poor/fair general physical health as compared to good/excellent, were associated with a lower P-ADL function. Conclusion The association between more severe dementia and lower P-ADL function was stable over a 36-month follow-up period of nursing home residents with dementia. Health care planners and clinicians should be aware of this when planning for and treating nursing home residents.
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