Psychological distress in long-term care (LTC) settings is highly prevalent and crosses many conventional psychiatric diagnostic boundaries. Mental health professionals who consult in LTC facilities have experienced firsthand the impact of a variety of nonpharmacological therapeutic approaches on individual residents, yet these are rarely investigated in a systematic fashion, and even less commonly reported in the literature. The present report summarizes the state-of-evidence of "talk therapies" for depression and psychological well-being in LTC facilities by reviewing controlled trials of psychotherapy for LTC residents published in English-language peer-reviewed journals. We excluded studies of nonpharmacological approaches designed primarily to curb behavioral disturbances of dementia, and those psychosocial interventions using an approach other than "talk therapy" in individual or group format since they have been reviewed in detail elsewhere. A majority of the 18 studies that met our inclusion criteria reported significant short- and, in some cases, longer-term benefits on instruments measuring depression, hopelessness, self-esteem, perceived control, and a host of other psychological variables. However, these findings must be interpreted within the severe methodological limitations of many studies, including small sample sizes, variable study entry criteria, short duration of trials, heterogeneous outcome assessment methods, and lack of detail on intervention methods. Nevertheless, the positive efficacy of these approaches, when understood within the framework of potential serious complications of pharmacotherapy for frail elders with multiple comorbidities, polypharmacy, and a narrow therapeutic index, suggests a strong need for methodologically rigorous trials of psychotherapy in the LTC setting, especially in combination with pharmacotherapy.
|Number of pages
|Journal of the American Medical Directors Association
|Published - Nov 2006
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by National Institute on Aging 1K23 AG023026, P30 MH071944, the John A. Hartford Foundations, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Endowment for Geriatric Psychiatry.
- cognitive impairment
- long-term care
- outcome measurement