Palliative care for patients with motor neurone disease and their bereaved carers: a qualitative study

Clare McVeigh, Collette Donaghy , Breige Mc Laughlin, Alison Dick, Kiran Kaur, John Mc Conville, Max Watson

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18 Citations (Scopus)
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Internationally, it is widely accepted that holistic care is as an integral part of the care for people with motor neurone disease (MND), and their informal carers. However the optimal role of generalist and specialist palliative care, and how it integrates with specialist neurology services, is not fully established. Using a qualitative approach we sought to examine end of life care for people with MND in Northern Ireland, and the role of specialist and generalist palliative care.

Qualitative study involving a convenience sample of 13 bereaved carers recruited using the Northern Ireland MND Register. Data collection consisted of semi-structured interviews with the bereaved carers of patients who had died 3–24 months previously with a diagnosis of MND. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings illuminated variations in relation to the levels of holistic care provided to this cohort of patients. Unmanaged respiratory and psychological symptoms caused perceived distress amongst patients. Participants’ experiences additionally highlighted reluctance amongst patients with MND to engage with services such as specialist palliative care. Conversely, for those who received input from specialist palliative care services carers portrayed these services to be of great benefit to the patient.

Patients with MND in Northern Ireland may have many unmet holistic care needs. Key areas that require particular focus in terms of service development include neuromuscular respiratory physiotherapy and psychological services for patients. Future research must explore an optimal model of holistic care delivery for patients with MND and how this can be effectively integrated to best meet this patient cohorts palliative care needs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2019


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