A randomized clinical trial of theory-based activities for the behavioral symptoms of dementia in nursing home residents

Ann Kolanowski, Mark Litaker, Lin Buettner, Joyel Moeller, Paul T. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To test the main and interactive effects of activities derived from the Need-Driven Dementia-Compromised Behavior model for responding to behavioral symptoms in nursing home residents. DESIGN: Randomized double-blind clinical trial. SETTING: Nine community-based nursing homes. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred twenty-eight cognitively impaired residents randomly assigned to activities adjusted to functional level (FL) (n=32), personality style of interest (PSI) (n=33), functional level and personality style of interest (FL+PSI) (n=31), or active control (AC) (n=32). INTERVENTION: Three weeks of activities provided twice daily. MEASUREMENTS: Agitation, passivity, engagement, affect, and mood assessed from video recordings and real-time observations during baseline, intervention, random times outside of intervention, and 1 week after intervention. RESULTS: All treatments improved outcomes during intervention except mood, which worsened under AC. During intervention the PSI group demonstrated greater engagement, alertness, and attention than the other groups; the FL+PSI group demonstrated greater pleasure. During random times, engagement returned to baseline levels except in the FL group in which it decreased. There was also less agitation and passivity in groups with a component adjusted to PSI. One week after the intervention, mood, anxiety, and passivity improved over baseline; significantly less pleasure was displayed after withdrawal of treatment. CONCLUSION: The hypothesis that activities adjusted to FL+PSI would improve behavioral outcomes to a greater extent than partially adjusted or nonadjusted activities was partially supported. PSI is a critical component of individualized activity prescription.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1032-1041
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • activity intervention
  • behavioral symptoms
  • dementia
  • nursing home
  • personality style of interest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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