Stacey Schepens Niemiec PhD, OTR/L, DipACLM(she/her/hers)
Associate Director for Lifestyle Redesign® Strategic Partnerships, and Associate Professor of Research
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Associate Professor of Research Stacey Schepens Niemiec’s research focuses broadly on the promotion of health and wellness in older individuals. Her work centers on the underlying mechanisms that facilitate or inhibit healthy aging, as well as methodologies — especially ones that incorporate cutting-edge technology — that emphasize activity participation. She relies on a multidisciplinary combination of occupational therapy, instructional technology, and gerontology principles to guide her investigations, with an eye towards development of lifestyle-based interventions that are designed to counterbalance the chronic health problems that beset the older population.
in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
2013 | University of Southern California
in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
2011 | University of Michigan
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
in Instructional Technology
2009 | Wayne State University
Master of Science (MS)
in Occupational Therapy
2005 | Wayne State University
Bachelor of Science (BS)
in Occupational Therapy
2003 | Wayne State University
Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Lee, E., Saunders, R., Wagas, R., & Wu, S. (2022). Technology for activity participation in older people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia: expert perspectives and a scoping review. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/17483107.2022.2116114 Show abstract
Purpose. This two-phased study aimed to collate, summarize and characterize – through the lens of an occupation-based, person-centred framework – ongoing research and practice featuring activity participation-supportive digital health technology (DHT) for direct use by older persons with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (PwMCI/ADRD).
Materials and methods. Phase 1: Using scoping review procedures, PubMed, MEDLINE and PsycInfo were searched to identify primary research studies. Phase 2: Semi-structured interviews were completed with MCI/ADRD expert stakeholders identified through publicly available biographies and snowball referral. Thematic analysis was used to identify, synthesize and cross-compare emergent themes from both data sources that were subsequently organized into core facets of the Human Activity Assistive Technology (HAAT) model.
Results. The scoping review resulted in 28 studies, which were primarily feasibility work with small sample sizes. Interviewed experts (N = 17) had 4+ years of MCI/ADRD experience, came from a variety of settings, and held myriad roles. Real world and research-based use of DHTs held some commonalities, particularly around support for social participation and instrumental activities of daily engagement. No DHT for sleep or work/volunteerism were noted in either phase. People with milder MCI/ADRD conditions were most often targeted users. Soft technology strategies facilitating implementation centred on product design (e.g., prompting software, customisability, multimedia/multisensory experiences), instructional methods and technology partner involvement.
Conclusions. This study demonstrates that although DHT supportive of activity participation is being studied and integrated into the lives of PwMCI/ADRD, there are still key opportunities for growth to meet the needs of diverse MCI/ADRD end users.
Keywords. Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias; digital health technology; activity participation; scoping review; older adults; activities of daily living; digital divide
Fields, B., Rodakowski, J., Jewell, V. D., Arthanat, S., Park, M., Verrier Piersol, C., Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Womack, J., & Mroz, T. M. (2021). Unpaid caregiving and aging in place in the United States: Advancing the value of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(5), 7505347010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2021.044735 Show abstract
Unpaid caregivers are often expected to help family members or friends overcome activity limitations and participation restrictions to successfully age in place. Caregivers assume multiple responsibilities, such as managing their own physical and psychosocial needs and navigating a complex health care system, and many feel ill equipped to fulfill the necessary health care responsibilities for their care recipients. Underprepared caregivers may cause poor outcomes for care recipients. Federal and state policy proposals call attention to the need to better support caregivers, especially as their numbers increase. Occupational therapy practitioners are well positioned to effectively engage caregivers as they navigate the health care system. The occupational therapy process looks broadly at the functional abilities, environmental contexts, and occupational demands that play a pivotal role in successful aging in place for clients and better outcomes for their caregivers. Now is the time to define occupational therapy’s distinct value to this area.
Keywords. aging, caregivers, health, clients, productive aging, occupational therapists, interdisciplinary treatment approach
Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Vigen, C. L., Martínez, J., Blanchard, J., & Carlson, M. (2021). Long-term follow-up of a lifestyle intervention for late-midlife, rural-dwelling Latinos in primary care. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75, 7502205020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2021.042861 Show abstract
Importance. Rural-dwelling Latinos are an underresourced population in need of accessible and effective wellness programs.
Objective. To evaluate patients’ long-term health-related outcomes after lifestyle intervention.
Design. An uncontrolled pilot trial assessing change in health from pretreatment to long-term follow-up (12 mo after intervention completion, no contact) and from posttreatment to long-term follow-up.
Setting. Rural, community-based primary care.
Participants. Latino and Hispanic safety-net primary care patients, ages 50 to 64 yr.
Intervention. A culturally tailored, 4-mo lifestyle intervention co-led by occupational therapy practitioners and Latino community health workers that features telehealth and in-home sessions covering topics such as healthy eating and navigating health care.
Outcomes and Measures. Self-reported and physiological outcomes: symptom–well-being (primary), stress, sleep disturbance, social satisfaction, physical activity, patient activation, blood pressure, and weight. Exit interviews addressed health experiences and intervention impact on participants’ lives.
Results. Participants (N = 27) demonstrated clinically significant pretreatment to long-term follow-up benefits in all symptom–well-being dimensions (Cohen’s d ≥ 0.8, p ≤ .004), with additional gains from posttreatment to long-term follow-up (d ≥ 0.4, p ≤ .05). Significant improvements from pre- to posttreatment in systolic blood pressure, stress, and social role and activity satisfaction were maintained at long-term follow-up. No changes were observed in weight, physical activity, or diastolic blood pressure. Participants described the intervention’s sustained positive effect on their wellness.
Conclusions and Relevance. A lifestyle intervention led by occupational therapy practitioners and community health workers in a primary care context has potential to achieve long-term health benefits in rural-dwelling, late-midlife Latinos.
What This Article Adds. This study reveals that rural, late-midlife Latinos showed long-lasting improvements in psychological and physical health after finishing a program that helped them make healthy lifestyle choices. This finding supports the unique contribution of occupational therapy in primary care settings.
Pyatak, E., King, M., Vigen, C. L., Salazar, E., Díaz, J., Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Blanchard, J., Jordan, K., Banerjee, J., & Shukla, J. (2019). Addressing diabetes in primary care: Hybrid effectiveness–implementation study of Lifestyle Redesign® occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73(5), 7305185020p1-7305185020p12. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2019.037317 Show abstract
Importance. Primary health care is rapidly developing as an occupational therapy practice area. Yet, to date, little evidence supports occupational therapy’s feasibility and efficacy in primary care settings.
Objective. To report on the implementation and preliminary clinical outcomes of a Lifestyle Redesign® (LR)–occupational therapy (LR–OT) diabetes management intervention in a primary care clinic.
Design. Patients were randomized to be offered LR–OT or to a no-contact comparison group (data not reported). We assessed implementation outcomes using mixed methods.
Setting. Safety-net primary care clinic.
Participants. Clinic providers and staff; English- or Spanish-speaking clinic patients ages 18–75 yr with diabetes and a current hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) ≥ 9.0%.
Intervention. Eight 1-hr individual sessions of LR–OT focused on diabetes management.
Outcomes and Measures. Clinical and health behavior outcomes were assessed via electronic medical record (EMR) review and self-report surveys of patients receiving LR–OT at initial evaluation and discharge. We assessed implementation outcomes (acceptability, appropriateness, feasibility, fidelity, efficiency, and timeliness) using patient and staff surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observations.
Results. Seventy-three patients were offered LR–OT: 51 completed one or more sessions, and 38 completed the program. Clinical outcomes among program completers indicate beneficial changes in HbA1c, diabetes self-care, and health status. Implementation challenges included a need for patient and staff education, securing adequate workspace, and establishing a referral process. Factors contributing to implementation success included strong buy-in from clinic leadership, colocation, and shared EMR documentation.
Conclusions and Relevance. LR–OT is a feasible approach to enhancing service delivery and clinical outcomes in primary care.
What This Article Adds. This study provides insight into factors that may create challenges or contribute to the success of implementing occupational therapy services within primary health care settings. In addition, this study provides preliminary evidence of occupational therapy’s effectiveness in improving clinical outcomes among ethnically diverse, low-income patients with diabetes in a safety-net primary care setting.
Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Blanchard, J., Vigen, C. L., Martínez, J., Guzmán, L., Fluke, M., & Carlson, M. (2019). A pilot study of the ¡Vivir Mi Vida! lifestyle intervention for rural-dwelling, late-midlife Latinos: Study design and protocol. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 39(1), 5-13. https://doi.org/10.1177/1539449218762728 Show abstract
Older, rural-dwelling Latinos face multiple health disparities. We describe the protocol of a pilot study of a community health worker–occupational therapist-led lifestyle program, ¡Vivir Mi Vida! (¡VMV!), designed for delivery in primary care and adapted for late-midlife, Latino rural-living patients. Using mixed methods, we collected feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy data on ¡VMV!. Forty 50- to 64-year-old Latinos participated in a 16-week lifestyle intervention led by a community health worker–occupational therapist team. We conducted pre- and post-intervention assessments to evaluate the efficacy of ¡VMV! in improving psychosocial and clinical health outcomes. Focus groups and interviews were held post-intervention with participants and key stakeholders to assess feasibility and acceptability. This is the first trial designed to evaluate a lifestyle intervention that includes collaboration between occupational therapists and community health workers within primary care. The detailed description of methodology promotes research transparency and reproducibility of a community health worker–occupational therapist-led lifestyle intervention.
Pyatak, E. A., Carlson, M., Vigen, C. L., Blanchard, J., Schepens Niemiec, S., Sideris, J., & Baranek, G. T. (2019). Contextualizing the positive effects of the Well Elderly 2 trial: A response to Schelly and Ohl (2019). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73, 7306205100. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2019.038752 Show abstract
IMPORTANCE: A recent reanalysis of data from the Well Elderly (WE) 2 study purportedly indicated that the intervention did not achieve clinically meaningful or statistically significant effects; this article addresses these criticisms.
OBJECTIVE: To contextualize the WE 2 study as targeting a nonclinical population and demonstrate that the intervention produced substantively important, statistically significant effects.
DESIGN: Secondary analysis of WE 2 intervention-based pre–post change scores.
SETTING: The original trial occurred primarily in senior centers and senior housing facilities in greater Los Angeles.
PARTICIPANTS: Independent-living older adults (N = 324) who were assessed before and after intervention.
INTERVENTION: The WE intervention, a version of the Lifestyle Redesign® (LR) approach, was administered by occupational therapists over 6 mo by means of group and individual sessions.
OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The 36-item Short Form Health Survey, the Life Satisfaction Index–Z, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.
RESULTS: The WE intervention was associated with statistically significant improvement on 10 of 12 outcome variables that were examined.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Because the WE intervention was hypothesized to reduce age-related decline and followed a population-oriented approach, the expectation that average results would be clinically meaningful was inappropriate. The intervention produced positive effects across a wide array of outcome domains. In settings in which clinical meaningfulness is an appropriate index of intervention outcomes, evidence suggests that LR produces effects that are clinically meaningful. As an evidence-based intervention, LR should be considered useful both in population-oriented contexts and in addressing discrete health conditions.
WHAT THIS ARTICLE ADDS: Valid analyses demonstrate that the positive experimental effects of the WE 2 study are, in fact, genuine and cost-effective, and LR in clinically oriented contexts has produced statistically significant, clinically meaningful results. Clearly and accurately representing the evidence base of occupational therapy in prevention and chronic care is of critical importance to advance the field as a whole.
Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Blanchard, J., Vigen, C., Martínez, J., Guzmán, L., Concha, A., Fluke, M., & Carlson, M. (2018). Evaluation of ¡Vivir Mi Vida! to improve health and wellness of rural-dwelling, late middle-aged Latino adults: Results of a feasibility and pilot study of a lifestyle intervention. Primary Health Care Research & Development, 19, 448-463. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1463423617000901 Show abstract
Aim. The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility and efficacy of a culturally tailored lifestyle intervention, ¡Vivir Mi Vida! (Live My Life!). This intervention was designed to improve the health and well-being of high risk late middle-aged Latino adults and to be implemented in a rural primary care system.
Background. Rural-dwelling Latino adults experience higher rates of chronic disease compared with their urban counterparts, a disparity exacerbated by limited access to healthcare services. Very few lifestyle interventions exist that are both culturally sensitive and compatible for delivery within a non-metropolitan primary care context.
Methods. Participants were 37 Latino, Spanish-speaking adults aged 50–64-years-old, recruited from a rural health clinic in the Antelope Valley of California. ¡Vivir Mi Vida! was delivered by a community health worker-occupational therapy team over a 16-week period. Subjective health, lifestyle factors, and cardiometabolic measures were collected pre- and post-intervention. Follow-up interviews and focus groups were held to collect information related to the subjective experiences of key stakeholders and participants.
Findings. Participants demonstrated improvements in systolic blood pressure, sodium and saturated fat intake, and numerous patient-centered outcomes ranging from increased well-being to reduced stress. Although participants were extremely satisfied with the program, stakeholders identified a number of implementation challenges. The findings suggest that a tailored lifestyle intervention led by community health workers and occupational therapists is feasible to implement in a primary care setting and can improve health outcomes in rural-dwelling, late middle-aged Latinos.
Juang, C., Knight, B. G., Carlson, M., Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Vigen, C., & Clark, F. A. (2018). Understanding the mechanisms of change in a lifestyle intervention for older adults. The Gerontologist, 58(2), 353–361. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw152 Show abstract
Purpose of the Study. This study investigated the mechanisms of change underlying an activity-based lifestyle intervention, an occupational therapy program aimed at promoting healthy habits, and routines in older adults. We examined two activity-relevant factors as potential mediators linking the intervention to reduced symptoms of depression: activity frequency and global perceptions of activity significance. Social connections and perceived control were assessed to understand how activity-related factors relate to reduced symptoms of depression.
Design and Methods. The sample consisted of 460 multiethnic community-dwelling older adults aged 60-95 years. Participants were randomly assigned to a 6-month lifestyle redesign intervention (n = 232) or a no-treatment control (n = 228) condition. After the 6-month period, 360 individuals completed post-testing. Latent change score models were used to represent changes from baseline over the experimental interval. Structural equation models were applied to examine the indirect effects of the intervention on reduced depressive symptoms.
Results. The results demonstrated significant indirect effects from intervention receipt to decreased depressive symptoms via increased activity frequency and activity significance. Higher activity frequency was linked to fewer depressive symptoms via heightened social connections, whereas increased activity significance was associated with fewer depressive symptoms via enhanced perceived control.
Implications. The results support basic principles of occupational therapy by highlighting important mediating roles of activity frequency and activity significance in reducing depressive symptoms. Understanding of these change mechanisms can help optimize activity-centered interventions to reduce depressive symptoms.
Murphy, S. L., Kratz, A. L., & Schepens Niemiec, S. L. (2017). Assessing fatigability in the lab and in daily life in older adults with osteoarthritis using perceived, performance, and ecological measures. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Science and Medical Sciences, 72(1), 115-120. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glw173 Show abstract
Background. Fatigue in older adults is associated with functional decline and reduced participation in daily life; however, it is not well characterized. Examining fatigue within activity performance, or "fatigability," is a recommended approach to begin to understand fatigue and its underlying mechanisms. This study examined the construct validity of lab-based measures of fatigability and compared these measures with fatigability in daily life (termed ecological fatigability).
Methods. Participants with osteoarthritis and fatigue (n = 163) underwent laboratory assessments, completed questionnaires, and wore accelerometers for 7 days while tracking symptoms and behaviors. Lab-based fatigability measures were quantified using the 6-minute walk test. Perceived fatigability was assessed by asking participants before and after the test to report: (i) fatigue severity and (ii) perceived exertion. Performance fatigability was calculated using change in walking speed divided by total distance walked. Ecological fatigability was calculated from the 7-day assessment in which fatigue severity was reported five times a day and physical activity was continuously measured. Additional ecological measures (eg, self-pacing) were examined.
Results. Lab-based perceived and performance fatigability measures were highly inter-correlated, moderately correlated with gait speed and metabolic measures, and weakly correlated with physical activity. Although ecological fatigability was weakly correlated with lab-based measures, participants with high fatigability on lab-based measures demonstrated more self-pacing behaviors than participants with low fatigability.
Conclusion. Lab-based fatigability measures are related to physical capacity measured both in the lab and daily life. Lab-based fatigability measures provide important information regarding daily life fatigability useful for future intervention development.
Murphy, S. L., Robinson-Lane, S. G., & Schepens Niemiec, S. L. (2016). Knee and hip osteoarthritis management: A review of current and emerging non-pharmacological approaches. Current Treatment Options in Rheumatology, 2(4), 296–311. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40674-016-0054-7
Murphy, S. L., Schepens Niemiec, S., Lyden, A. K., & Kratz, A. L. (2016). Pain, fatigue, and physical activity in osteoarthritis: The moderating effects of pain- and fatigue-related activity interference. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 97(9, Supplement), S201-S209. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2015.05.025 Show abstract
Objective. To examine how self-reported pain- and fatigue-related activity interference relates to symptoms and physical activity (PA) in daily life among people with knee or hip osteoarthritis.
Design. Cross-sectional study with a 7-day repeated-measures assessment period.
Setting. General community.
Participants. Participants (N=154; mean age, 65y; 60% women [n=92]) with knee or hip osteoarthritis and pain lasting ≥3 months.
Interventions. Not applicable.
Main Outcome Measures. Pain- or fatigue-related activity interference items on the Brief Pain Inventory or Brief Fatigue Inventory, respectively, from baseline survey, momentary pain and fatigue severity (measured 5 times/d for 7d), and PA measured with a wrist-worn accelerometer over 7 days. We hypothesized that perception of pain- and fatigue-related activity interference would moderate the association between symptoms (pain or fatigue) and PA. People with higher pain- or fatigue-related activity interference were thought to have stronger negative associations between momentary ratings of pain and fatigue and PA than did those with lower activity interference.
Results. Pain-related activity interference moderated the association between momentary pain and PA, but only in the first part of the day. Contrary to expectation, during early to midday (from wake-up time through 3 pm), low pain-related interference was associated with stronger positive associations between pain and PA but high pain-related interference was associated with a small negative association between pain and PA. Fatigue-related activity interference did not moderate the relation between fatigue and activity over the course of a day.
Conclusions. Depending on a person's reported level of pain-related activity interference, associations between pain and PA were different earlier in the day. Only those with high pain-related activity interference had lower levels of PA as pain increased and only in the morning. High pain-related activity interference may be important to address, particularly to maintain PA early in the day despite pain.
Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Carlson, M., Martínez, J., Guzman, L., Mahajan, A., & Clark, F. (2015). Developing occupation-based preventive programs for late-middle-aged Latino patients in safety-net health systems. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(6), 6906240010p1-6906240010p11. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.015958 Show abstract
Latino adults between ages 50 and 60 yr are at high risk for developing chronic conditions that can lead to early disability. We conducted a qualitative pilot study with 11 Latinos in this demographic group to develop a foundational schema for the design of health promotion programs that could be implemented by occupational therapy practitioners in primary care settings for this population. One-on-one interviews addressing routines and activities, health management, and health care utilization were conducted, audiotaped, and transcribed. Results of a content analysis of the qualitative data revealed the following six domains of most concern: Weight Management; Disease Management; Mental Health and Well-Being; Personal Finances; Family, Friends, and Community; and Stress Management. A typology of perceived health-actualizing strategies was derived for each domain. This schema can be used by occupational therapy practitioners to inform the development of health-promotion lifestyle interventions designed specifically for late-middle-aged Latinos.
Clark, F. A., Blanchard, J., Sleight, A., Cogan, A., Eallonardo, L., Floríndez, L., Gleason, S., Heymann, R., Hill, V., Holden, A., Jackson, J. M., Mandel, D. R., Murphy, M., Proffitt, R., Niemiec, S. S., Vigen, C., & Zemke, R. (2015). Lifestyle redesign: The intervention tested in the USC Well Elderly Studies (2nd ed.). Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association. Full text Show abstract
Reorganized, expanded, and updated, this new edition of the award-winning Lifestyle Redesign gives practical guidance in this preventative occupational therapy program for independent-living older adults. The work integrates the concept of the USC's landmark Well Elderly Studies, which determined that preventive occupational therapy greatly enhances the health and quality of life of independent-living older adults.
Twelve modules, including those on longevity, stress, home safety and navigating health care, illustrate how to incorporate the program into practice. Includes a flash drive with program handouts.
Mallinson, T., Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Carlson, M., Leland, N., Vigen, C., Blanchard, J., & Clark, F. (2014). Development and validation of the activity significance personal evaluation (ASPEn) scale. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 61(6), 384-393. https://doi.org/10.1111/1440-1630.12155 Show abstract
Background/Aim. Engagement in desired occupations can promote health and wellbeing in older adults. Assessments of engagement often measure frequency, amount or importance of specific activities. This study aimed to develop a scale to measure older adults' evaluation of the extent to which their everyday activities are contributing to their health and wellness.
Methods. Eighteen items, each scored with a seven-point rating scale, were initially developed by content experts, covering perceptions of how daily activities contribute to physical and mental health, as well as satisfaction and activity participation in the last six months. Rasch analysis methods were used to refine the scale using the pencil and paper responses of 460 community-living older adults.
Results. Initial Rasch analysis indicated three unlabelled rating scale categories were seldom used, reducing measurement precision. Five items were conceptually different by misfit statistics and principal component analysis. Subsequently, those items were removed and the number of rating scale steps reduced to 4. The remaining 13-item, 4-step scale, termed the Activity Significance Personal Evaluation (ASPEn), formed a unidimensional hierarchy with good fit statistics and targeting. Person separation reliability (2.7) and internal consistency (.91) indicated the tool is appropriate for individual person measurement. Relative validity indicated equivalence between Rasch measures and total raw scores.
Conclusions. ASPEn is a brief, easily administered assessment of older adults' perception of the contribution of everyday activities to personal health and wellness. ASPEn may facilitate occupational therapy practice by enabling clinicians to assess change in meaning of an older adult's activity over time.
Murphy, S., & Schepens Niemiec, S. L. (2014). Aging, fatigue, and fatigability: Implications for occupational and physical therapists. Current Geriatrics Reports, 3(3), 135-141. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13670-014-0093-6 Show abstract
Fatigue is a common yet complex symptom among older adults that is linked to interference with daily activity performance and reduced quality of life. Although fatigue is not routinely evaluated or treated by health care providers, rehabilitation can play a key role in addressing fatigue in older adults. This paper provides a review about fatigue in older adults and discusses current assessment and treatment options for occupational and physical therapists.
Leland, N. E., Marcione, N., Schepens Niemiec, S. L., Kelkar, K., & Fogelberg, D. (2014). What is occupational therapy’s role in addressing sleep problems among older adults? OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 34(3), 141-149. https://doi.org/10.3928/15394492-20140513-01 Show abstract
Sleep problems, prevalent among older adults, are associated with poor outcomes and high health care costs. In 2008, rest and sleep became its own area of occupation in the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Occupational Therapy Practice Framework. The current scoping review examined a broad context of sleep research to highlight efficacious interventions for older adults that fall within the occupational therapy scope of practice and present an agenda for research and practice. Four sleep intervention areas clearly aligned with the practice framework, including cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, physical activity, and multicomponent interventions. Occupational therapy is primed to address sleep problems by targeting the context and environment, performance patterns, and limited engagement in evening activities that may contribute to poor sleep. Occupational therapy researchers and clinicians need to work collaboratively to establish the evidence base for occupation-centered sleep interventions to improve the health and quality of life of older adults.
Kratz, A. L., Schepens, S. L., & Murphy, S. L. (2013). Effects of cognitive task demands on subsequent symptoms and activity in adults with symptomatic osteoarthritis. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67(6), 683-691. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2013.008540 Show abstract
Objective. Adults with osteoarthritis (OA) experience fatigue in daily life that is negatively related to physical activity; however, it is unclear how task demands affect fatigue and occupational performance. We examined effects of a cognitive task on subsequent symptoms and activity.
Method. Adults with knee or hip OA completed a standardized cognitive task during a lab visit. Objective physical activity and symptoms were tracked during two home-monitoring periods (i.e., 4-day period before and 5-day period after the lab visit). Multilevel modeling was used to compare pretask with posttask fatigue, pain, and activity levels.
Results. Fatigue increased and pain decreased for 2 days after performing the lab task. The authors found no pretask to posttask changes in activity levels. At posttask, daily fatigue and activity patterns changed relative to baseline.
Conclusion. For adults with symptomatic OA, cognitive task demands may be an important contributor to fatigue and pain.
Schepens, S. L., Kratz, A. L., & Murphy, S. L. (2012). Fatigability in osteoarthritis: Effects of an activity bout on subsequent symptoms and activity. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Science and Medical Sciences, 67(10), 1114-1120. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/gls076 Show abstract
Background. Older adults with osteoarthritis (OA) are more likely to experience increased fatigue following bouts of physical activity than those without OA. The highly "fatigable" nature of this population is problematic as it has been linked to OA severity and decreased function. This study examined the effects of engaging in standardized lab-based physical tasks on subsequent fatigue, pain, and activity in older adults with OA.
Methods. Thirty-five older adults with OA performed lab-based tasks (sweeping, grocery shopping, and walking) in 15-minute circuits until they felt too fatigued to continue. Fatigue and pain were self-reported (0-10 scale) following each circuit and at set intervals during a 4-day baseline (pretask) and a 5-day posttask home period. Activity was tracked via wrist-worn accelerometer. Multilevel modeling was used to examine levels and patterns of fatigue, pain, and activity across the study period.
Results. The lab-based tasks altered subsequent levels and patterns of fatigue and activity but had no effects on pain. Compared with baseline, on the day of the lab-based tasks, fatigue was higher and more stable, and activity was significantly lower and dropped steadily toward evening. Activity returned to baseline levels and patterns by the day following the lab-based tasks while fatigue was lower for 3 days following task performance.
Conclusions. Among older adults with OA, a bout of standardized physical activity resulted in increased fatigue and reduced activity, but effects were short-lived. Future studies will need to identify factors that differentiate people who are particularly fatigable in order to target interventions.
Schepens, S. L., Braun, M. E., & Murphy, S. L. (2012). Effect of tailored activity pacing on self-perceived joint stiffness in adults with knee or hip osteoarthritis [Brief report]. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(3), 363-367. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2010.004036 Show abstract
Objective. We examined the effects of a tailored activity-pacing intervention on self-perceived joint stiffness in adults with osteoarthritis (OA).
Method. Thirty-two adults with hip or knee OA were randomized to a tailored or general activity-pacing intervention. Participants' symptoms and physical activity over 5 days were used to tailor activity pacing. The outcome was self-perceived joint stiffness measured at baseline, 4 wk, and 10 wk. A linear mixed regression model was used.
Results. The tailored group significantly improved in stiffness compared with the general group over time. We found a significantly different linear trend between groups (Time × Group, p = .046) in which the tailored group had decreasing stiffness over the three time points, denoting continued improvement. The general group's stiffness improved from baseline to 4 wk but returned to baseline levels at 10 wk.
Conclusion. Tailoring activity pacing may be effective in sustaining improvements in self-perceived joint stiffness in adults with OA.
Schepens, S. L., Sen, A., Painter, J. A., & Murphy, S. L. (2012). Relationship between fall-related efficacy and activity engagement in community-dwelling older adults: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(2), 137-148. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.001156 Show abstract
Objective. Fear of falling can lead to restricted activity, but little is known about how this fear affects different aspects of people's lives. This study examined the relationship between fall-related efficacy (i.e., confidence or belief in one's ability to perform activities without losing balance or falling) and activity and participation.
Method. We conducted a meta-analysis of studies comparing community-dwelling older adults' fall-related efficacy to measures of activity or participation.
Results. An examination of 20 cross-sectional and prospective studies found a strong positive relationship between fall-related efficacy and activity (r = .53; 95% CI [.47, .58]). An insufficient number of studies examining fall-related efficacy and participation were available for analysis.
Conclusion. Low fall-related efficacy may be an important barrier to occupational engagement for many older adults and warrants careful consideration by occupational therapists. Future research should explore interventions that target fall-related efficacy and examine their effects on activity performance and engagement.
Goldberg, A., & Schepens, S. L. (2011). Measurement error and minimum detectable change in 4-meter gait speed in older adults. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 23(5-6), 406-412. Full text Show abstract
Background and Aims. Gait speed is a commonly-used assessment and outcomes measure in geriatric clinical and research settings. Although relative reliability of usual gait speed has been well studied in community-dwelling older adults, less emphasis has been placed on a measure of absolute reliability (the standard error of measurement [SEM]), and on an associated clinically relevant index of real change in gait speed, minimum detectable change (MDC). The purpose of this study was to quantify measurement error and MDC for usual gait speed over 4 meters in community-dwelling older adults ambulating at intermediate and fast speeds.
Methods. Community-dwelling older adults ambulating at intermediate gait speed (IGS), (n=15, mean age 74.2 yrs) and fast gait speed (FGS), (n=15, mean age 72.1) were included in this study. Participants performed two trials of gait speed over a distance of 4 meters. SEM and MDC at the 95% confidence level (MDC95) were computed for the IGS and FGS groups.
Results. Mean gait speed was 85.4 cm/s (IGS) and 129.9 cm/s (FGS). Measurement error (<5% of mean gait speed) and minimum detectable change (<13% of mean gait speed) were low in both groups. MDC95 was computed as 10.8 cm/s and 14.4 cm/s for the IGS and FGS groups, respectively.
Conclusions. To be considered real change beyond the bounds of measurement error, change in 4-meter gait speed should exceed 10.8 cm/s (for intermediate speed ambulators) or 14.4 cm/s (for fast speed ambulators). Low measurement error in assessing 4-meter gait speed in community-dwelling older adults suggests that gait speed assessed over short distances has excellent reproducibility across trials. Low minimum change values suggest that 4-meter gait speed may be responsive and sensitive to change.
Goldberg, A., Schepens, S. L., Feely, S. M., Garbern, J. Y., Miller, L. J., Siskind, C. E., & Conti, G. E. (2010). Deficits in stepping response time are associated with impairments in balance and mobility in people with Huntington disease. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 298(1-2), 91-95. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2010.08.002 Show abstract
Huntington disease (HD) is a disorder characterized by chorea, dystonia, bradykinesia, cognitive decline and psychiatric comorbidities. Balance and gait impairments, as well as falls, are common manifestations of the disease. The importance of compensatory rapid stepping to maintain equilibrium in older adults is established, yet little is known of the role of stepping response times (SRTs) in balance control in people with HD. SRTs and commonly-used clinical measures of balance and mobility were evaluated in fourteen symptomatic participants with HD, and nine controls at a university mobility research laboratory. Relative and absolute reliability, as well as minimal detectable change in SRT were quantified in the HD participants. HD participants exhibited slower SRTs and poorer dynamic balance, mobility and motor performance than controls. HD participants also reported lower balance confidence than controls. Deficits in SRT were associated with low balance confidence and impairments on clinical measures of balance, mobility, and motor performance in HD participants. Measures of relative and absolute reliability indicate that SRT is reliable and reproducible across trials in people with HD. A moderately low percent minimal detectable change suggests that SRT appears sensitive to detecting real change in people with HD. SRT is impaired in people with HD and may be a valid and objective marker of disease progression.
Schepens, S. L., Goldberg, A., & Wallace, M. (2010). The short version of the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence (ABC) Scale: Its validity, reliability, and relationship to balance impairment and falls in older adults. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 51(1), 9-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2009.06.003 Show abstract
A shortened version of the ABC 16-item scale (ABC-16), the ABC-6, has been proposed as an alternative balance confidence measure. We investigated whether the ABC-6 is a valid and reliable measure of balance confidence and examined its relationship to balance impairment and falls in older adults. Thirty-five community-dwelling older adults completed the ABC-16, including the 6 questions of the ABC-6. They also completed the following clinical balance tests: unipedal stance time (UST), functional reach (FR), Timed Up and Go (TUG), and maximum step length (MSL). Participants reported 12-month falls history. Balance confidence on the ABC-6 was significantly lower than on the ABC-16, however scores were highly correlated. Fallers reported lower balance confidence than non-fallers as measured by the ABC-6 scale, but confidence did not differ between the groups with the ABC-16. The ABC-6 significantly correlated with all balance tests assessed and number of falls. The ABC-16 significantly correlated with all balance tests assessed, but not with number of falls. Test-retest reliability for the ABC-16 and ABC-6 was good to excellent. The ABC-6 is a valid and reliable measure of balance confidence in community-dwelling older adults, and shows stronger relationships to falls than does the ABC-16. The ABC-6 may be a more useful balance confidence assessment tool than the ABC-16.
Goldberg, A., Schepens, S. L., & Wallace, M. (2010). Concurrent validity and reliability of the Maximum Step Length test in older adults. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 33(3), 122-127. https://doi.org/10.1097/JPT.0b013e3181eda302 Show abstract
Purpose. This study assessed concurrent validity of the Maximum Step Length (MSL) test as a measure of falls risk and balance-impairment for community-dwelling older adults. A secondary purpose was to determine intra- and interrater reliability and standard error of measurement of the MSL test.
Methods. Thirty-five community-dwelling adults aged 60 or older provided a 12-month falls history. Functional measures included the MSL test, Single Limb Stance Time, Functional Reach test, Timed Up and Go test, and a test of trunk position sense. Pearson correlation coefficient, intraclass correlation coefficient (a coefficient of relative reliability), and standard error of measurement (a measure of absolute reliability) were calculated as indices of concurrent validity and reliability of the MSL test. Minimal detectable change was also calculated; this represents actual change beyond that of measurement error or random variation in stepping performance.
Results. Correlations between MSL score and clinical balance measures and self-reported number of falls in the past 12 months ranged from fair to good. Same-day and 1-month intrarater test-retest reliability of the MSL test was excellent. Same-day interrater reliability between 2 raters was also excellent. Measurement error of the MSL test was low. Minimal detectable change for the MSL test at the 95% confidence level was 7.32 inches.
Conclusion. The MSL test appears to be a valid and reliable measure of balance-impairment and falls risk in older adults. Clinicians should consider incorporating the MSL test into their battery of falls risk assessment tools. Use of this test as a screening measure may reduce the incidence of falls in community-dwelling older adults. Real change in performance requires a difference of more than 7.32 inches between trials; differences less than this should be interpreted as being due to measurement error or random variation in stepping performance.
Conti, G. E., & Schepens, S. L. (2009). Changes in hemiplegic grasp following distributed repetitive intervention: A case series. Occupational Therapy International, 16(3-4), 204-217. https://doi.org/10.1002/oti.276 Show abstract
The purpose of this pilot study was to investigate the efficacy of a distributed model of repetitive and focused intervention on grasp force, and clinical and functional hand measures in persons with chronic hemiplegia and limited hand recovery from self-reported stroke. A case series design was used. Focused repetitive unilateral and bilateral interventions were provided in a distributed manner (three times a week for 6 weeks) to three persons with upper limb hemiplegia of more than 1 year. Data from instrumented grasp force, and clinical and functional measures were obtained at weeks 0, 3, 6 and 9. Each participant improved in at least one measure of grasp force, as well as in clinical skill and function. All participants improved in the quality of handwriting. Improved outcomes remained above baseline levels following 3 weeks of non-intervention. The findings are compatible with current evidence of adaptive cortical plasticity following increased repetition. The findings show that, for these three persons, distributed repetitive practice was sufficient to effect change. Localization by cerebral area affected is not possible, nor is it possible to parse the effectiveness of any component of the intervention. A larger group study is warranted to determine whether similar results may be found for other persons with chronic hemiplegia. Future studies should incorporate kinematic handwriting analysis and a greater range of functional tasks.
Lawlor wins Slagle, 8 more Trojans earn AOTA and AOTF awards >
By Mike McNulty Mary Lawlor, associate chair of research and professor Associate Chair of Research and Professor Mary Lawlor was named the recipient of the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship Award, the profession’s most prestigious academic honor that…
April 4, 2022
Celebrating unsung heroes during National Family Caregivers Month >
By Calvin Lee MA ’21 Allison Chu OTD, OTR/L Chu: It’s often been said that when you get married, you’re not just marrying that person but you’re marrying their family as well. Similarly with OT, when you’re working with a client, you’re not just working with the client but you’re also…
November 25, 2020
Healthier aging through sharing life stories >
Schepens Niemiec: Life storytelling — sharing one’s personal life experiences and stories with others — is a meaningful, culturally rich, shared occupation that can be powerfully health-promoting. Life storytelling can help people make sense of their lives, become more aware of the scripts…
September 28, 2020
USC-designed smartphone app aims to get older adults “Moving Up” >
By Rishbha Bhagi / USC Viterbi School of Engineering Stacey Schepens Niemiec has long been passionate about using technology to improve the health and wellness of older adults. She became concerned with the widening of a “digital divide” among older adults that was limiting their access to…
June 3, 2020
The garden of life at CHP >
By Kaho Ishizuki MA ’20 USC Landscape Shop staff member Jose Lopez and Maria Cristina Jiménez MA ’20 Walk out on the Center for the Health Professions (CHP) building patio shared by USC's occupational therapy, physical therapy and pharmacy programs, and you will see eight thriving garden beds.…
November 6, 2019
Schepens Niemiec selected for NIH-funded program to reduce Alzheimer’s-related disparities >
By Mike McNulty Stacey Schepens Niemiec, assistant professor of research Assistant Professor of Research Stacey Schepens Niemiec Postdoc ’13 has been selected to participate in a scientific training program funded by the National Institutes of Health that supports junior scientists to develop…
October 24, 2019
Latest issue of AJOT features 23 USC-affiliated authors >
By Mike McNulty Nearly two dozen Trojans authors — including faculty and staff members, students and alumni — were published in the Sept./Oct. 2019 issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. The special issue focused on primary care, an area of occupational therapy research and…
September 30, 2019
China Initiative Visits Hong Kong, Beijing, and Fuzhou | December 2017 >
Purpose In December, a USC Chan China Initiative delegation visited Hong Kong, Beijing and Fuzhou. In Hong Kong, members of the team visited and dined with Mrs. T.H. Chan and her family including USC Trustee Ronnie C. Chan MBA ’76. In Beijing, team members attended and delivered presentations at…
February 15, 2018
Keeping pain at bay >
By Lita Smith-Mines/Boating Times Long Island Photo courtesy of Boating Times Long Island The advice “pace yourself” is often expressed when someone appears in danger of burning out by doing too much, too fast. It’s also excellent counsel to persons trying to cope with painful or fatiguing…
December 31, 2017
Making aging more mobile with new smartphone app >
By Mike McNulty / USC News If the infomercials are to be believed, older adults want cellphones that are anything but smart. With oversized displays and one-touch medical alert buttons, products like the Jitterbug flip phone are simple by design. But technology usage trends among seniors are…
October 16, 2017
68 Trojans presenting at 2014 AOTA conference >
Congratulations to the 68 USC Trojan faculty, alumni, students and staff who presented at the 2014 Conference of the American Occupational Therapy Association, March 3-6 in Baltimore. Additionally of special note, alumnae Dottie Ecker Cert. ’58, MA ’68 and Sue Knox MA ’68, PhD ’97 were…
March 26, 2014
Improve Your Grip Strength >
These tips can help you handle a variety of everyday chores and activities.
Janet Lee, in Consumer Reports | July 17, 2022
USC Study Shows Occupational Therapy Helps Diabetes Patients Make Lifestyle Changes that Can Prevent Serious Health Complications >
The pilot study is the first to be completed under a novel academic-government collaboration between the SC CTSI, the UCLA CTSI, and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services
Paul Karon, in Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute | November 8, 2019
App will be created to increase physical activity of older adults >
The occupational therapy program at USC is in the process of improving the lives and health of older adults.
Maya Zaleski, in Daily Trojan | October 27, 2017
New smartphone app developed at USC aims to support fitness among older adults >
Designed to boost physical activity, the app is seen as a key step to advancing mobile health technology
Mike McNulty, in USC News | October 24, 2017