Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the author’s final published version in BMC Geriatrics, Volume 21, Issue 1, December 2021, Article number 581.

The published version is available at Copyright © Gitlin et al.


BACKGROUND: People living with dementia (PLWD) and caregivers are adversely impacted by lack of meaningful activity leading to worse symptoms and impaired quality-of-life. There is a critical need to develop effective and well-tolerated treatments that mitigate clinical symptoms, engage PLWD and support caregiver wellbeing. We tested whether, compared to attention control, the Tailored Activity Program (TAP) reduced clinical symptoms and health-related events, and improved caregiver wellbeing, and if TAP activities were well-tolerated.

METHODS: We conducted a single-blind randomized controlled trial among 250 dyads recruited from Baltimore-Washington DC (2012-2016) with a dementia diagnosis and clinically significant agitation/aggression. Dyads were randomized to TAP (n = 124) or attention control (n = 126), and interviewed at baseline, 3 (endpoint) and 6-months (follow-up) by interviewers masked to group allocation. TAP assessed PLWD abilities/interests, instructed caregivers in using prescribed activities, and provided dementia education and stress reduction techniques. Attention controls received disease education and home safety tips. Both groups had up to 8 home visits over 3-months. The primary outcome was frequency by severity scores for agitation/aggression subscales of Neuropsychiatric Inventory-Clinician using caregiver ratings. Secondary outcomes included number of instrumental (IADL) and activities of daily living (ADL) needing assistance, caregiver wellbeing, and confidence using activities. Health-related events (PLWD death, hospitalizations, caregiver hospitalization, depression) and perceived study benefits were captured over 6 months. PLWD tolerability of prescribed activities was examined.

RESULTS: Of 250 dyads, most caregivers were female (81.2 %, n = 203), non-spouses (54.4 %, n = 136), white (59.2 %, n = 145) or African American (36.7 %, n = 90) with mean age = 65.4 (SD = 12.6). PLWD were mostly female (63.2 %, n = 158) with mean age = 81.4 (SD = 7.9), and mean MMSE = 14.3 (SD = 7.8). At 3-months, compared to controls, TAP conferred no benefit to agitation/aggression (p = 0.43, d = 0.11), but resulted in less IADL (p = 0.02, d=-0.33), and ADL (p = 0.04, d=-0.30) assistance, improved caregiver wellbeing (p = 0.01, d = 0.39), and confidence using activities (p = 0.02, d = 0.32). By 6-months, 15 PLWD in TAP had ≥ 1 health-related event versus 28 PLWD in control, demonstrating 48.8 % improvement in TAP (p = 0.03). TAP caregivers were more likely to perceive study benefits. Prescribed activities were well-tolerated.

CONCLUSIONS: Although TAP did not benefit agitation/aggression, it impacted important outcomes that matter to families warranting its use in dementia care.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: # NCT01892579 at ; Date of clinical trial registration: 04/07/2013; Date first dyad enrolled: 15/11/2013.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

PubMed ID