Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2021 Oct 9:S1064-7481(21)00494-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2021.09.017. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVES: Morning activation deficits (MADs) correlate with depression symptom persistence in older dementia caregivers. To clarify the potential of MADs as a target for depression interventions, we aimed to: 1) adapt an existing behavioral activation program, Engage therapy, to target mornings; and 2) evaluate effects on self-reported MADs and depression symptoms.
METHODS: While trialing the 9-week Engage adaption (targeting mornings) in six older dementia caregivers, we incorporated feedback and finalized an adapted program called Scheduling Activity and Monitoring Mornings (SAMM). We delivered the SAMM protocol to 13 dementia caregivers (all female; mean age = 69, standard deviation = 7). We report modifications made/rationale, as well as changes in subjective MADs (relevant items from the Composite Scale of Morningness) and depression symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire – 9).
RESULTS: Using caregiver and expert input, we adapted the protocol to: include educational materials/content describing the potential relationship between morning inactivity and depression; target activity scheduling within 2 hours of awakening (preferably earlier); and focus only on the main components of morning activity scheduling, planning, and monitoring. This program was associated with decreases in subjective MADs averaging 29% at week 4, 52% at week 6, and 57% by week 9 (all p’s <0.005). Initial depression symptoms were significantly reduced, by 62%, at week 9.
CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary findings suggest that subjective MADs can be modified pragmatically, and that doing so may have antidepressant effects. A controlled trial with measures of the putative mechanism is needed to clarify whether, and if so how, targeting MAD with SAMM causally perturbs depression’s mechanisms.
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