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The Gerontologist 48:105-114 (2008)
© 2008 The Gerontological Society of America

BE-ACTIV: A Staff-Assisted Behavioral Intervention for Depression in Nursing Homes

Suzanne Meeks, PhD1, Stephen W. Looney, PhD2, Kimberly Van Haitsma, PhD3 and Linda Teri, PhD4

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Suzanne Meeks, PhD, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292. E-mail: smeeks{at}

Purpose: This article (a) describes a 10-week, behavioral, activities-based intervention for depression that can be implemented in nursing homes collaboratively with nursing home activities staff and (b) presents data related to its development, feasibility, and preliminary outcomes. Design and Methods: We developed BE-ACTIV, which stands for Behavioral Activities Intervention, in two pilot study phases: a treatment development phase and a feasibility–outcome phase with a small, randomized trial. We first piloted the intervention with five depressed residents in a single nursing home in collaboration with the social services and activities staff. The second phase randomized 20 residents from six nursing homes to receive either the intervention or treatment as usual. Results: The intervention was well received by residents, family, and staff members. Experience with the intervention and input from staff members resulted in modifications to streamline the intervention and improve implementation. Results suggest that BE-ACTIV reduced institutional barriers to participation in pleasant activities, increased resident control over activity participation, increased overall activity participation, and improved depressive symptoms. Despite low power, statistical and graphical comparisons suggest superiority of the intervention over treatment as usual. Implications: Because depression among nursing home residents is prevalent, heterogeneous, and often treatment resistant, there is a need for effective, low-cost interventions that are ecologically acceptable and efficient. BE-ACTIV is a promising intervention; it is brief, addresses institutional barriers, involves facility staff in treatment, and is acceptable to residents. As such, BE-ACTIV merits further evaluation to establish efficacy and effectiveness.

Key Words: Depression • Nursing homes • Interventions

All GSA journals Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Copyright © 2008 by The Gerontological Society of America.