Many people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia suffer from concomitant depression and anxiety disorders, which in some cases, may be related difficulties adjusting to their diagnosis and associated cognitive problems. Successful adjustment and alleviation of depression and anxiety symptoms in these people is of critical importance for quality of life and may also help prevent, or delay, further cognitive decline. A variety of psychosocial intervention approaches has been trialed with this group.
The literature was systematically searched for community-based intervention studies that aim to improve depression, anxiety, or adjustment. Studies were included or excluded using a priori criteria. Once included, the quality of studies was evaluated using pre-set criteria.
Seventeen of 925 studies identified through literature databases and manual searches met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 16 were considered to be of at least “adequate quality.” These included seven randomized controlled trials and eight pre–post studies. A diverse range of psychotherapeutic approaches, formats (individual or group), outcome measures, inclusion criteria, and cultural contexts were apparent, making comparisons between studies challenging.
Several studies have demonstrated positive findings in the treatment of depression in older adults with early dementia using problem solving and modified cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) approaches. Amongst the large range of approaches trialed to improve adjustment and quality of life for patients with MCI and early dementia, some approaches, such as modified CBT, have shown promise. There is a need for replication studies using more rigorous methodology before clear clinical recommendations can be made.