November 30, 2020

Would people living with epilepsy benefit from palliative care?

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Palliative care (PC) is an approach to the care of persons living with serious illness and their families that focuses on improving quality of life and reducing suffering by addressing complex medical symptoms, psychosocial needs, spiritual well-being, and advance care planning. While PC has traditionally been associated with hospice care for persons with cancer, there is now recognition that PC is relevant to many noncancer diagnoses, including neurologic illness, and at multiple points along the illness journey, not just end of life.

Despite the recent growth of the field of neuropalliative care there has been scant attention paid to the relevance of PC principles in epilepsy or the potential for PC approaches to improve outcomes for persons living with epilepsy and their families. We believe this has been a significant oversight and that PC may provide a useful framework for addressing the many sources of suffering facing persons living with epilepsy, for engaging patients and families in challenging conversations, and to focus efforts to improve models of care for this population.

In this manuscript we review areas of significant unmet needs where a PC approach may improve patient and family-centered outcomes, including complex symptom management, goals of care, advance care planning, psychosocial support for patient and family and spiritual well-being. When relevant we highlight areas where epilepsy patients may have unique PC needs compared to other patient populations and conclude with suggestions for future research, clinical, and educational efforts.