Antidepressants have limited efficacy in older adults with depression and cognitive impairment, and psychosocial interventions for this population have been inadequately investigated. Problem Adaptation Therapy (PATH) is a psychosocial intervention for older adults with major depression, cognitive impairment, and disability.
This study tests the efficacy of PATH versus Supportive Therapy for Cognitively Impaired Older Adults (ST-CI) in reducing depression (Montgamery Asberg Depression Rating Scale [MADRS]) and disability (World Health Organization Disability Assessments Schedule-II [WHODAS-II]) and improving cognitive outcomes (Mini Mental State Examination [MMSE]) over 24 weeks (12 weeks of treatment and 12-week post-treatment follow-up).
Participants were recruited through collaborating community agencies of Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry. Both interventions and all research assessments were conducted at home.
Thirty-five older adults (age ≥ 65 years) with major depression and cognitive impairment no dementia (CIND).
PATH aims to increase emotion regulation by incorporating a problem-solving approach, teaching compensatory strategies, and inviting caregiver participation. Supportive Therapy aims to facilitate the expression of affect, as well as promote empathy.
Depression was measured using the MADRS, disability using the WHODAS-II, and cognition using the MMSE.
PATH participants showed significantly greater reduction in MADRS total score (7.04 points at 24 weeks, treatment group by time interaction: F[1,24.4] = 7.61, p = 0.0108), greater improvement in MMSE total score (2.30 points at 24 weeks, treatment group by time interaction: F[1,39.8] = 13.31, p = 0.0008), and greater improvement in WHODAS-II total score (2.95 points at 24 weeks, treatment group by time interaction: F[1,89] = 4.93, p = 0.0290) than ST-CI participants over the 24-week period.
PATH participants had better depression, cognitive, and disability outcomes than ST-CI participants over 6 months. PATH may provide relief to depressed older adults with CIND who currently have limited treatment options.