Objectives: Palliative care addresses the suffering of patients and families affected by progressive illness through the management of medical symptoms, psychosocial issues, and spiritual concerns. Although there is an emerging interest in applying palliative care to Parkinson's disease (PD), potential palliative care needs have not been systematically investigated in PD patients. Our primary objective was to determine the prevalence of clinically significant symptomatic, psychosocial, and spiritual issues in PD and understand their impact on health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Secondary objectives included comparing the level of palliative care needs of PD patients to advanced cancer patients and assessing preferences for advance care planning.
Methods: Ninety PD patients and 47 patients with advanced cancer were surveyed regarding potential palliative care needs, including symptom burden, mood, anticipatory grief, and spiritual well-being. PD patients completed additional scales regarding HRQOL, motor symptoms, cognitive impairment, and preferences regarding advance care planning.
Results: Potential palliative care needs, including high symptom burden and grief, were common in PD patients and contributed to HRQOL even when controlling for depression and motor severity. In all domains investigated, PD patients had similar or higher levels of palliative care needs as patients with advanced cancer. PD patients expressed a desire to complete advance directives early in the disease course and with a physician.
Conclusions: Palliative care needs contribute to HRQOL in PD and are of similar severity as cancer patients. This study supports and helps focus efforts to integrate palliative care principles in PD care across the spectrum of the disease.