Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Stakeholder Perspectives on the Biopsychosocial and Spiritual Realities of Living With ALS: Implications for Palliative Care Teams

CONTEXT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an all-encompassing, life-limiting disease, resulting in the eventual paralysis of all voluntary muscles and concurrent loss of independence. As the disease advances, both patients and their family caregivers develop complex biological, psychological, and social needs, leading to increasing calls for the involvement of palliative care teams in the management of ALS. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to generate a rich description of the realities of living with ALS, equipping palliative care teams with an in-depth understanding of the experiences and needs of patients with ALS and their family caregivers. METHODS: This study employed a mixed-methods design, with quantitative data supplementing a larger body of qualitative data. Semi-structured interviews with 42 key stakeholders, including patients, family caregivers, and health-care providers, were analyzed for themes essential for effective understanding of ALS. RESULTS: Identified themes were organized into 2 broad categories: (1) biopsychosocial needs of patients with ALS and family caregivers and (2) the impact of ALS on spiritual and emotional well-being. Quantitative data supported the recognized themes, particularly with regard to challenges associated with preserving independence, securing sufficient social support, and managing the emotional complexities of the disease. CONCLUSION: Study findings illustrate the intricacies of living with ALS and the importance of eliciting individualized values when caring for patients with ALS and their families. The complex biopsychosocial needs experienced by patients and family caregivers suggest numerous opportunities for meaningful palliative care involvement.