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Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Background: Simulated family presence has been shown to be an effective nonpharmacological intervention to reduce agitation in persons with dementia in nursing homes. Hyperactive or mixed delirium is a common and serious complication experienced by hospitalized patients, a key feature of which is agitation. Effective nonpharmacological interventions to manage delirium are needed.

Objectives: To examine the effect of simulated family presence through pre-recorded video messages on the agitation level of hospitalized, delirious, acutely agitated patients.

Design: Single site randomized control trial, 3 groups x 4 time points mixed factorial design conducted from July 2015 to March 2016.

Setting: Acute care level one trauma center in an inner city of the state of Connecticut, USA.

Participants: Hospitalized patients experiencing hyperactive or mixed delirium and receiving continuous observation were consecutively enrolled (n = 126), with 111 participants completing the study. Most were older, male, Caucasian, spouseless, with a pre-existing dementia.

Methods: Participants were randomized to one of the following study arms: view a one minute family video message, view a one minute nature video, or usual care. Participants in experimental groups also received usual care. The Agitated Behavior Scale was used to measure the level of agitation prior to, during, immediately following, and 30 minutes following the intervention.

Results: Both the family video and nature video groups displayed a significant change in median agitation scores over the four time periods (p < .001), whereas the control group did not. The family video group had significantly lower median agitation scores during the intervention period (p < .001) and a significantly greater proportion (94%) of participants experiencing a reduction in agitation from the pre-intervention to during intervention (p < .001) than those viewing the nature video (70%) or those in usual care only (30%). The median agitation scores for the three groups were not significantly different at either of the post intervention time measurements. When comparing the proportion of participants experiencing a reduction in agitation from baseline to post intervention, there remained a statistically significant difference (p = .001) between family video(60%) and usual care (35.1%) immediately following the intervention

Conclusion: This work provides preliminary support for the use of family video messaging as a nonpharmacological intervention that may decrease agitation in selected hospitalized delirious patients. Further studies are necessary to determine the efficacy of the intervention as part of a multi-component intervention as well as among younger delirious patients without baseline dementia.


Version posted is the authors' accepted manuscript.






International Journal of Nursing Studies







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