Dementia caregiving is associated with elevations in depressive symptoms and increased risk for cardiovascular diseases (CVD). This study evaluated the efficacy of the Pleasant Events Program (PEP), a 6-week Behavioral Activation intervention designed to reduce CVD risk and depressive symptoms in caregivers. One hundred dementia family caregivers were randomized to either the 6-week PEP intervention (N = 49) or a time-equivalent Information-Support (IS) control condition (N = 51). Assessments were completed pre- and post-intervention and at 1-year follow-up. Biological assessments included CVD risk markers Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and D-dimer. Psychosocial outcomes included depressive symptoms, positive affect, and negative affect. Participants receiving the PEP intervention had significantly greater reductions in IL-6 (p = .040), depressive symptoms (p = .039), and negative affect (p = .021) from pre- to post-treatment. For IL-6, clinically significant improvement was observed in 20.0% of PEP participants and 6.5% of IS participants. For depressive symptoms, clinically significant improvement was found for 32.7% of PEP vs 11.8% of IS participants. Group differences in change from baseline to 1-year follow-up were non-significant for all outcomes. The PEP program decreased depression and improved a measure of physiological health in older dementia caregivers. Future research should examine the efficacy of PEP for improving other CVD biomarkers and seek to sustain the intervention's effects.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Cardiovascular disease; Depression; Intervention; Treatment.
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