Measuring the Effects of a Personalized Music Intervention on Agitated Behaviors Among Nursing Home Residents With Dementia: Design Features for Cluster-randomized Adaptive Trial









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BACKGROUND: Agitated and aggressive behaviors (behaviors) are common in nursing home (NH) residents with dementia. Medications commonly used to manage behaviors have dangerous side effects. NHs are adopting non-pharmacological interventions to manage behaviors, despite a lack of effectiveness evidence and an understanding of optimal implementation strategies. We are conducting an adaptive trial to evaluate the effects of personalized music on behaviors. Adaptive trials may increase efficiency and reduce costs associated with traditional RCTs by learning and making modifications to the trial while it is ongoing. METHODS: We are conducting two consecutive parallel cluster-randomized trials with 54 NHs in each trial (27 treatment, 27 control). Participating NHs were recruited from 4 corporations which differ in size, ownership structure, geography, and residents' racial composition. After randomization, there were no significant differences between the NHs randomized to each trial with respect to baseline behaviors, number of eligible residents, degree of cognitive impairment, or antipsychotic use. Agitated behavior frequency is assessed via staff interviews (primary outcome), required nursing staff conducted resident assessments (secondary outcome), and direct observations of residents (secondary outcome). Between the two parallel trials, the adaptive design will be used to test alternative implementation strategies, increasingly enroll residents who are likely to benefit from the intervention, and seamlessly conduct a stage III/IV trial. DISCUSSION: This adaptive trial allows investigators to estimate the impact of a popular non-pharmaceutical intervention (personalized music) on residents' behaviors, under pragmatic, real-world conditions testing two implementation strategies. This design has the potential to reduce the research timeline by improving the likelihood of powered results, increasingly enrolling residents most likely to benefit from intervention, sequentially assessing the effectiveness of implementation strategies in the same trial, and creating a statistical model to reduce the future need for onsite data collection. The design may also increase research equity by enrolling and tailoring the intervention to populations otherwise excluded from research. Our design will inform pragmatic testing of other interventions with limited efficacy evidence but widespread stakeholder adoption because of the real-world need for non-pharmaceutical approaches. {2A} TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03821844 . Registered on January 30, 2019. This trial registration meets the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum standard.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Agitation; Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Anxiety; Confusion; Depression; Elderly; Interviews; Long-Term Care Facility; Mood; Music Therapy; Neurodegenerative Disorders

Indexed Terms

Aggression; Dementia; Nursing Homes; Adaptive trials; Embedded pragmatic trials; NIH Stage Model for Behavioral Intervention Development; Statistical imputation; competing interests.

Study Type

Randomized Controlled; Trial; Quantitative Methods


Music Therapy

PubMed ID


Document Type