Reimagining anxiety care for people living with dementia

28 September 2023

University of Queensland researchers are testing a new psychotherapeutic intervention to improve the lives of people living with cognitive impairment or dementia who experience anxiety.

Associate Professor Nadeeka Dissanayaka, at UQ’s Centre for Clinical Research’s Dementia & Neuro Mental Health Research Unit, said the Tech-CBT MRFF funded project of $1.6 million will evaluate the efficacy, cost-effectiveness and future implementation of a remote psychotherapy care program to participants using technology.

“The ‘My Anxiety Care’ new web-platform is co-designed including people living with dementia and their care partners,” Dr Dissanayaka said.

“The platform helps connect therapists with participants to deliver a 6-week program, combining education about anxiety, relaxation techniques to help people cope with symptoms, and suggestions for ways to improve sleep.”

The platform also connects to a new voice APP, ‘Quiet Mind’, which was developed with people living with dementia  to help with home-based practice.

“We can use mobile devices (tablets supported by Lions Australia) to deliver the program via video conferencing to people across Australia living with dementia, Dr Dissanayaka said.

“The hope is that these technologies will help people manage their mental health themselves when needed, as well as connecting them to a therapist and providing access to resources at other times.”

People living with dementia are four times more likely to experience anxiety compared to the overall population.

“Anxiety reduces quality of life for them and their carer partners, and it increases the likelihood of early institutionalisation,” Dr Dissanayaka said.

“Treatment isn’t routinely available, easily accessible or integrated into current primary health care or memory clinics, and this needs to change.”

Ann Pietsch is currently living with dementia and is an associate investigator in this project.

“These kinds of interventions are priceless,” Ms Pietsch said.

“People can connect to therapists from home and the platform is a one-stop-shop to access important information at any time of the day. 

“The flexibility, the ease, and the help through the videos played by voice command using Echo devices are some of many advantages of this new program.

“I think the idea of the whole study is important and profound for people living with dementia.”

The Tech-CBT Trial began recruiting participants in February and the research team are looking to recruit an additional 60 participants before December 2024.

The trial is a randomised control trial which means that eligible participants will be randomly assigned to an intervention group or a control group and monitored.

Participants in the intervention group, will be asked to attend six weekly sessions of psychotherapy via video-conferencing, while those in the control group, will continue their usual care as prior to entering the study.

If you have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or dementia and if you are currently experiencing any anxiety symptoms we invite you to participate.

For more information on the trial visit: