Prevalent care models for neurological illnesses could be improved by more extensive integration of palliative care, recent research has found.
A team of international researchers reviewed prior studies of care models for treating Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia and other neurological diseases.
They found that the development of an evidence-based framework for early and ongoing palliative care would considerably improve quality of life, symptom management and advance care planning, according to a study published in The Lancet.
“Neurological diseases cause physical, psychosocial and spiritual or existential suffering from the time of their diagnosis. Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life for people with serious illness and their families by addressing this multidimensional suffering,” the authors wrote. “Evidence from clinical trials supports the ability of palliative care to improve patient and caregiver outcomes by the use of outpatient or home-based palliative care interventions.”
Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other neurological degenerative disorders will represent a larger portion of the hospice and palliative patient population in the next two decades.
About 1 in 9 seniors will have a dementia-related condition by 2050, representing roughly three-quarters (73%) of the nation’s overall aging population, according to a 2023 report from the Alzheimer’s Association.
A projected 12.7 million Americans 65 and older will have Alzheimer’s or other dementias by then, nearly double the current estimated 6.7 million seniors with these conditions, according to the report.
“With this proliferation comes an increased need for competent, high-quality hospice and palliative health care for patients with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases,” Alzheimer’s Association researchers wrote in the report.
The integrated care model proposed by The Lancet study would include an interdisciplinary approach, including symptom management, psychosocial and spiritual support, depression screening and advance care planning.
Greater access to palliative care would help address a vast unmet need, globally, according to the research.
“Unfortunately, most people with neurological diseases do not get the support that they need for their palliative care under current standards of health care,” the authors wrote. “Improving this situation requires the deployment of routine screening to identify individual palliative care needs, the integration of palliative care approaches into routine neurological care, and collaboration between neurologists and palliative care specialists.”