Objectives: To present the rationale, development, and pilot study of a medication adherence skills training (MAST-BD) intervention for older adults with bipolar disorder (BPD). We developed a 12-week manualized group intervention that combined educational, motivational, medication management skills and symptom management training adapted for older adults.
Methods: Among 21 older outpatients with BPD (mean age = 60 years; SD = 6), the feasibility and acceptability of MAST-BD were assessed in a quasi-experimental clinical trial. We also obtained preliminary effect sizes associated with pre–post change on measures of self-reported adherence to psychiatric medications, performance-based medication management ability, attitudes toward medication, depressive and manic symptoms, and health-related quality of life.
Results: At baseline, 55% of participants reported recent non-adherence to psychiatric medications and were, on average, suffering from moderately severe depressive symptoms and minimal symptoms of mania. A total of 76% of participants completed the intervention, and 86% of sessions were attended by completers. Participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the intervention and manual. Pre–post improvement by small to medium effect sizes (Cohen's d = 0.30–0.57) was seen in medication adherence, medication management ability, depressive symptoms, and selected indices of health-related quality of life.
Conclusions: Notwithstanding the limitations of this small preliminary study, the results are encouraging in that the MAST-BD intervention was feasible, acceptable to patients, and associated with improvement in key outcomes. Suggestions for further development of medication adherence interventions for this neglected group of patients are discussed.