A Randomized Controlled Trial Investigating the Feasibility of a Low-Intensity Psychological Intervention for Fear of Memory Loss and Quality of Life in Older Adults: Protocol for the Reducing Fear and Avoidance of Memory Loss (REFRAME) Study

JMIR Res Protoc. 2021 Jul 30;10(7):e30514. doi: 10.2196/30514.


Background: Dementia is the most feared disease associated with aging. Prolonged fears about memory loss and dementia can have harmful consequences even in the absence of cognitive decline. Fear of dementia is associated with poorer health outcomes and psychological well-being and increased memory failures in older adults.

Objective: We will conduct a randomized controlled trial to determine the feasibility of a tailored, web-based mindfulness program to reduce fear of memory loss and increase quality of life in older adults experiencing heightened fear.

Methods: Eighty participants will be recruited and divided into 2 groups (40 in each group). One group will receive psychoeducation plus mindfulness training. A second group will receive psychoeducation, mindfulness training, and additional modules targeting maladaptive behavioral avoidance (ie, social and cognitive withdrawal).

Results: Our recent etiological model posits that maladaptive behavioral avoidance strategies critically underlie psychosocial dysfunction associated with fear of memory loss. Thus, we predict better outcomes in the second group, including reduced fear of memory loss (primary outcome), Alzheimer disease, anxiety, and subjective memory failures, and increased quality of life (secondary outcomes). Outcome measures will be applied at 5 time points (before, baseline, interim, and after the intervention, and at 3-month follow-up). Data will be analyzed using mixed models and correlations.

Conclusions: Results from this study will contribute to the current literature on dementia-related fear and improve our understanding of how to effectively address and reduce these fears.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04821960; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04821960.

International registered report identifier (irrid): PRR1-10.2196/30514.

Keywords: behavioral activation; dementia; fear; memory loss; mindfulness; older adults.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04821960