Context: Older adults with social isolation, medical comorbidity, and physical impairment are more likely to be depressed but may be less able to seek appropriate care for depression compared with older adults without these characteristics.
Objective: To determine the effectiveness of a home-based program of detecting and managing minor depression or dysthymia among older adults.
Design and setting: Randomized controlled trial with recruitment through community senior service agencies in metropolitan Seattle, Wash, from January 2000 to May 2003.
Patients: One hundred thirty-eight patients aged 60 years or older with minor depression (51.4%) or dysthymia (48.6%). Patients had a mean of 4.6 (SD, 2.1) chronic medical conditions; 42% of the sample belonged to a racial/ethnic minority, 72% lived alone, 58% had an annual income of less than 10 000 dollars, and 69% received a form of home assistance.
Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to the Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives for Seniors (PEARLS) intervention (n = 72) or usual care (n = 66). The PEARLS intervention consisted of problem-solving treatment, social and physical activation, and potential recommendations to patients' physicians regarding antidepressant medications.
Main outcome measures: Assessments of depression and quality of life at 12 months compared with baseline.
Results: At 12 months, compared with the usual care group, patients receiving the PEARLS intervention were more likely to have at least a 50% reduction in depressive symptoms (43% vs 15%; odds ratio [OR], 5.21; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.01-13.49), to achieve complete remission from depression (36% vs 12%; OR, 4.96; 95% CI, 1.79-13.72), and to have greater health-related quality-of-life improvements in functional well-being (P =.001) and emotional well-being (P =.048).
Conclusions: The PEARLS program, a community-integrated, home-based treatment for depression, significantly reduced depressive symptoms and improved health status in chronically medically ill older adults with minor depression and dysthymia.