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Major stressors facing patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): a survey to identify their concerns and to compare with those of their caregivers.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, 6550 Fannin, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To identify and compare the primary existential, physical, and psychosocial stressors affecting patients with ALS and their caregivers. Health care providers, together with patients and their caregivers, are challenged to identify both physical and psychosocial concerns that have the greatest impact on quality of life over the course of a serious illness. It is also helpful to understand the priorities of these concerns from the patients' and caregivers' perspectives so that we can render optimal care and help patients and their families with the myriad problems that accompany a progressive and fatal disease.

METHODS:

We analyzed responses from the first 66 patients with ALS and 61 ALS caregivers who attended the Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Neurology, Vicki Appel MDA ALS Clinic and who completed our internally generated 19-item survey. Subjects were asked to choose their three most important concerns. For analysis purposes we categorized the data into three domains: existential, physical, and psychosocial. Demographic data were collected. The Appel ALS Rating Scale (AALS) was used to measure disease symptom severity.

RESULTS:

Sixty-six patients (45 men, 21 women) with a mean age of 57.9 (range 30-82) years and 61 caregivers completed the checklist. At the time the patients completed the survey, their mean AALS total score was 77.0 (range 34-132), indicating mild to moderate disability. The most important stressors identified by patients and caregivers were existential concerns (86.4% of patients and 79.7% of caregivers) and physical stressors (80.3% of patients and 76.3% of caregivers). Less than 50% of both groups endorsed psychosocial stressors (38%). However, when we analyzed the domain specific items, there was a significant difference between patients and caregivers on worries about the patient's dependency (37.9% of patients and 6.8% of caregivers).

DISCUSSION:

Health care professionals should apply a holistic approach to treatment and care of patients with ALS. Families should be included in the process, and it should not be assumed that patients and caregivers will agree on all issues. Future research should focus on therapeutic interventions to help ALS patients and their families cope with the multiple stressors accompanying a catastrophic illness.

PMID:
15204023
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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