Specific Aim 1: To determine feasibility of a 20-minute dyadic exercise program for
ambulatory individuals with dementia and caregivers living at home based on recruitment,
adherence and retention. Investigators will conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial
(RCT) with 20 dyads (total N = 40) in groups of 5 randomized to 16-week group exercise
classes and regular home practice or wait list in a cross-over design. Investigators will
assess feasibility of enrollment and retention, the proportion of completed outcome
measures, and adherence by class attendance logs, caregiver-reported home practice logs and
qualitative interviews to assess ease of implementation in the home environment.
Investigators will explore feasibility of weekly phone calls to (potentially overwhelmed)
caregivers and Fit-bit accelerometers as a measure for tracking home practice.
Specific Aim 2: To collect preliminary effect size data for sample size calculation for a
larger trial. Investigators will assess standard outcomes (such as the Short Physical
Performance Battery and Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale - cognitive subscale as primary
outcomes for affected individuals; and Caregiver Burden Inventory for caregivers) commonly
used in pharmacological studies of individuals with dementia at baseline, 16 and 32 weeks
and calculate effect sizes (Cohen's d) for between-group differences in outcome changes in
the 20 dyads of the RCT described in Specific Aim 1.
Specific Aim 3: To explore the feasibility of using non-invasive Near-Infrared Spectroscopy
(NIRS) to assess regional cortical brain oxygenation and its sensitivity to change.
Investigators will compare brain oxygenation variations before and after the exercise
intervention during a memory task for the seniors with dementia.
Alzheimer's dementia (AD) is a major public health challenge for our century. Research into
pharmaceutical therapies has been disappointing and not provided any safe medications that
can halt the disease's trajectory of decline in the cognitive, functional, emotional and
social capabilities of the affected individuals. For non-pharmacological approaches,
multi-domain exercise programs that address several of these capabilities in an integrated
way have shown strong promise for their ability to slow the decline. The team of
investigators has systematically developed one such program—the Preventing Loss of
Independence through Exercise (PLIÉ) program—an integrative exercise program that uses
procedural memory (memory for movements without explicit recall), can be taught at and
integrated into senior day care centers and has been pilot-tested by our team with
encouraging results for functional, cognitive and social outcomes (see Table 1).
However, (1) most people in the community do not have access to a day care center, are
concerned about the stigma associated with day care or are unable to afford it. This was
endorsed by semi-structured interviews conducted with caregivers and community-based
organizations in preparation for a larger study of the PLIÉ program. There is a huge need
for innovative programs to assist individuals with dementia and their caregivers in the
community. Irrespective of having access to day care or not, motivated caregivers, who are
aware of the benefits of exercises for their loved ones and spend hours alone with them at
home, ask: "What can we do with our [e.g. mother]?" They point out a major lack of guidance
for caregivers in the community to be able to use a regular exercise practice on a long-term
basis at home. Caregivers and seniors with dementia living together in the community are
dyads in need of a paired exercise program. (2) How exercise may delay cognitive and
functional decline is unknown. One hypothetical mechanism of action is an improved brain
oxygenation related to exercise. Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) is a non-invasive method
to assess regional cortical oxygenation levels, has been suggested for the early diagnosis
of Alzheimer's dementia, but has never been applied to longitudinal studies in this
Paired home exercise programs for seniors with dementia and their primary caregivers have
rarely been studied. A pilot study that used 6 'sticky hands' movement variations based on
Tai Chi, music and exercise incentives found improvements in 2 outcome measures considered
to be important in fall prevention (sit-to-stand time, one-legged stance time). However,
movements were limited to tai chi and outcomes to fall-related function, leaving out
cognitive function for which the PLIÉ program had shown such promising results.
The group of investigators is an established collaboration between the Osher Center for
Integrative Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF and has recently pioneered a
novel, 45-minute, multi-domain program called Preventing Loss of Independence through
Exercise (PLIÉ) that integrates physical activity (training of procedural memory for basic
daily activities such as sitting and standing), cognitive stimulation (mindful body
awareness), social engagement (group movement and sharing of in-the-moment experiences), and
caregiver education (monthly home-visit). The investigators pilot-tested PLIÉ in 11
individuals with mild to moderate dementia who were attending an adult day program at the
Institute of Aging in San Francisco, CA (ClinicalTrials.gov registered NCT01371214), and
found (Table 1) preliminary evidence of medium to large, clinically meaningful effect sizes
com-pared to usual care (UC; 45 minutes of usual chair-based exercises at the day care
center) across a wide range of out-comes including measures of quality of life (0.83),
cognitive function (0.76), physical performance (0.34) and caregiver burden (0.49).7,11 That
study methodologically mimicked a drug study by including measures that are commonly used in
dementia medication trials, which enabled comparison of the magnitude of our results to
currently available dementia medications.. The investigators are now completing data
collection for a second implementation of the PLIÉ program at an adult day program in San
Rafael, CA (Senior Access). The intervention of the current proposal will be similar to PLIÉ
in using the same principles6 and taught by instructors trained in the PLIÉ program.
However, it will differ in its format: instead of a day-care center-based group program
taught by professional exercise instructors, it uses a dyadic approach, introduced through
caregiver support groups to pairs of individuals with dementia and their caregivers,
initially using a group class format, but taught to enable caregivers to practice
independently at home. To allow for wide-spread long-term routine application, it will be
brief (20 minutes), use personalized music associated with positive affect memories, and be
supported by video instructions.
2 papers have been published about the study.
Therefore, the investigators propose studying a paired integrative exercise intervention
that can be practiced in dyads of caregivers and affected individuals at home or in a
community-based support group environment, does not require additional equipment, can be
easily learned by caregivers, and may ameliorate the impact of dementia for older persons
and caregivers. The investigators suggest a multimodal program that is based on implicit
procedural learning and the integrative principles of the PLIÉ program: it includes physical
(through touch) and social interaction with a trusted family member, focuses on physical
function such as balance, includes personalized music choices and singing, supports positive
affect, and uses language to cognitively enhance the experience of mind-body integration. It
promotes a playful, non-judgmental supportive attitude to foster a sense of embodied
personhood in individuals with dementia through joyful social interaction with an empowered
1. Recruitment. Study participants will be recruited from local caregiver support groups
of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland. Exercise instructors and the PI have already been
invited to give presentations at their regular meetings. Contacts have been established
with 3 caregiver support groups meeting at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, totaling about
100 caregivers, who meet once a month and confirmed strong interest to participate.
Thus, it is highly likely that we will twice be able to recruit 10 dyads of eligible
participants. In addition, investigators will give study flyers to caregiver support
managers at Kaiser Permanente, the local Alzheimer's Association groups, and the
Alzheimer's Services of the East Bay (ASEB). In addition, we will recruit at ASEB.
Caregivers will be informed about the study by brief presentations by the PI and an
exercise instructor during regular support group meetings. A flyer will be handed to
interested potential participants describing the study and providing an opportunity to
learn more by returning a form or calling the research study staff. Those caregivers
who express interest will be contacted by research staff by phone to further assess
interest/eligibility and to schedule a consent visit.
2. Informed consent. Verbal consent to be screened will be obtained over the telephone
prior to collecting information on demographics and medical and psychiatric history.
Written consent will be obtained with the affected individuals and caregivers together,
as described in more detail below. The consent forms will be reviewed and capacity to
consent will be assessed in primary participants based on responses to questions to
determine level of understanding of study procedures, risks, benefits and rights.
Participants who do not demonstrate capacity to consent will be asked to assent to
study procedures and caregivers will be asked to consent on their behalf. A separate
consent form will request permission to participate in video recording of exercise
classes for quality control purposes. After the consent process has been completed, the
Modified Mini-Mental State Exam (3MS) will be administered to affected individuals to
assess level of cognitive impairment. Consent procedures will take place at the Kaiser
group room unless otherwise requested by caregivers.
If the caregiver is not the Legally Authorized Representative (LAR) or the legal
guardian of the affected individual, the screening interview will be stopped.
Investigators will then mail a letter to the LAR or legal guardian and invite her/him
to contact us by mail or phone to discuss the study and the consent process. The
screening and eligibility questions for the affected individual will then be completed
with the LAR or legal guardian. If investigators do not get a response within 2 weeks
they will call the LAR or legal guardian by phone assuming that she/he has received our
letter. Only if this person permits the affected individual's study participation
investigators will contact the caregiver and the affected individual again.
How will investigators assess the potential participant's capacity to consent? Capacity
to consent will be assessed by research assistants (RA) who will be extensively trained
by the PI and co-investigators using a standardized procedure. Investigators first
provide the consent form to the patient and caregiver together and allow them to review
it. RAs then describe the key points of the form, pointing to the areas on the form
where the information is described in more detail. They then ask a series of yes/no
questions to assess understanding of the information in the form. If the participant
cannot answer the questions, RAs review the material again and point to the section on
the form. Investigators then repeat the questions. If participants are unable to answer
all of the questions on their own after review, RAs consider them to lack capacity to
consent. RAs then ask them if they would like to participate in the study to obtain
their assent. RAs say that they are going to ask the caregiver to sign the form on the
participant's behalf to obtain written consent. Most of the team's research assistants
have been and are psychology graduate students who are highly sensitive to working with
vulnerable patients. Investigators train new research staff by having them role play
the consent process until senior personnel determine that they are adequately prepared.
They then observe senior personnel performing the consent process on at least one study
participant. Subsequently they are observed performing the consent process until senior
personnel determine that they are competent. Investigators/RAs also have weekly team
meetings to discuss any difficulties that arise during consent or any other study
Randomization: Following the baseline assessments, assessing staff will open an opaque,
sealed envelop for each dyad (affected individual and caregiver). Envelops will be
numbered and will contain the group assignment. A statistician not involved in the
study will prepare these envelops and create a random sequence of numbers using a
computer program. There will be 2 piles of envelops, one for men and one for women to
recruit a similar proportions of male and female participants in both groups.
3. 1st Pilot-test Phase. Affected individual/caregiver dyads who consented will be invited
to participate in the first pilot phase of 10 dyads. These subjects will participate in
either Group 1 (initial intervention), which will participate first, or Group 2 (wait
list control group). Group 1 will participate in the Paired PLIÉ program 2 times/week
for 45 minutes for 4 weeks and then once/month for additional 3 months while Group 2
will be wait-listed. After Group 1 has completed their training, Group 2 will
participate in the PLIÉ program 2 times/week for 45 minutes for 4 weeks and then
once/month for additional 3 months. Group assignment will be random. Investigators will
strive to have an equal distribution of men/women in the two groups.
Intervention: the exercise protocol is based on the PLIÉ protocol, which the
investigators have developed in consultation with experts worldwide who have experience
performing different types of exercises in individuals with mild-to-moderate dementia,
including traditional strength-building exercises, yoga, Tai Chi and Feldenkrais.
Specifically, investigators have identified exercises from each of these traditions
that engage the muscles most needed to maintain independence--including lower body
strength (to help with getting out of bed/chair), balance (to minimize risk of falls),
upper body strength (to help with lifting), fine motor exercises (to help with
activities such as eating and brushing teeth), and pelvic floor exercises (to help with
continence)--and have combined them into a unique integrative exercise program. These
exercises are designed to be purposeful (i.e., to achieve a goal) and to build
procedural ('muscle') memory. In addition, breathing and guided meditation exercises
are included to promote relaxation and well-being.
While the PLIÉ program has been tested in a senior day care setting, investigators are
combining these exercises in a new way, that they can be practiced at home in dyads of
affected individuals and caregivers.
4. 2nd Pilot-test Phase. In a second phase investigators will repeat the identical
protocol and intervention with 10 more dyads of affected individuals and caregivers.
5. Pre- and post-intervention assessment. Investigators will perform a variety of standard
measures in all participants and caregivers. The following assessments will occur at
baseline and after the 3 follow-up months. They will primarily be utilized to assess
feasibility and logistics of data collection procedures. Separate appointments will be
made for affected individuals and caregivers to maximize the validity of data collected
(e.g., to ensure that caregivers do not 'help' affected individuals with answers to
questions and feel comfortable providing information about issues such as difficult
behaviors or levels of stress). Affected individuals assessments will take place at the
group room. The initial caregiver assessment will take place at the caregiver's home or
the group room. The first line of communication for follow-up appointments will be via
telephone or in person to minimize the risk of loss of privacy. At the caregiver
participant's request, further communication may be conducted via mail, email, fax or
text. Caregivers will be informed that these modes of communication may increase their
risk of loss of privacy. Mail, email, fax and text communications will include a
confidentiality statement. The minimum amount of identifying information will be
included in all communications. Study forms will include unique study ID numbers only.
- Affected individuals: dementia diagnosis (any type, mild to moderate severity
[defined as independent in at least 1 basic ADL])
- Ambulatory and able to take 2 steps without cane or walker
- Living in the community in a private home or apartment
- English language fluency.
- Caregiver/care partner: lives with affected individual
- Motivated to practice regularly (4-5 times per week) at home
- Able to answer study questions related to the affected individual's functional
status, mood, behaviors, quality of life and their own feelings regarding caregiving
- English language fluency.
- Affected Individuals: behavioral or physical issues that would be disruptive or
dangerous to themselves or others (e.g., active psychosis, drug abuse, severe
- Planning to move to a facility before the end of the study period
- Terminal illness (life expectancy < 1 year)
- Non-stable dementia medication dose
- Current participation in another research study.
- Caregiver/care partner: planning to place affected individual in an institutional
setting during the study period
- Terminal illness (life expectancy < 1 year)
- Behavioral or physical issues that are disruptive or dangerous.