To determine if behavioural activation (BA) delivered by trained staff decreases prevalence of clinically significant symptoms of depression among older adults living in residential aged care facilities (RACFs).
Clustered, randomised, single-blinded, controlled trial of BA for adults aged over 60 years living permanently in a RACF with symptoms of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire, PHQ-9 ≥ 5). BA was delivered over 8-12 weeks using a structured workbook. The proportion of residents with PHQ-9 ≥ 10 at weeks 12, 26 and 52, as well as anxiety symptoms (GAD-7), physical (PCS) and mental (MCS) quality of life, loneliness, and loss to follow-up were main outcomes of interest
We recruited 54 RACFs (26 intervention) and 188 of their residents (89 intervention). Participants were aged 61-100 years and 132 (70.2%) were women. PHQ-9 ≥ 10 interacted with BA at week 12 (OR=0.34, 95%CI=0.11-1.07), but differences between the groups were not statistically significant at any time-point. GAD-7 ≥ 10 interacted with BA at week 26 (OR=0.12, 95%CI=0.02-0.58), but not at any other time-point. Overall, the intervention had no effect on the scores of the PHQ-9, GAD-7, PCS, MCS, and loneliness scale. Loss to follow-up was similar between groups. Adherence to all stages of the intervention was poor (36.2%).
Disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing issues in RACFs undermined recruitment and adherence. In such a context, a BA program delivered by RACF staff was not associated with better mental health outcomes for residents over 52 weeks.