A study comparing patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and their caregivers on measures of quality of life, depression, and their attitudes toward treatment options

Marilyn Trail, Naomi D. Nelson, John N. Van, Stanley H. Appel, Eugene C. Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients and their caregivers on measures of quality of life (QOL), depression, and their attitudes toward treatment options. Methods: Over a 14-month period, we analyzed responses from 27 ALS patients and 19 ALS caregivers as they arrived at the Department of Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, Vicki Appel MDA, ALS Clinic, and those who completed the study measures. Patients were given the Appel ALS Rating Scale (AALS), the ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS), McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire Single-Item Scale (MQOL-SIS), and the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). An internally generated scale of 1-7 was used to measure perception of emotional support, QOL for others (i.e., the patient's perception of the caregiver's QOL and the caregiver's perception of the patient's QOL), and experience of pain. Attitudes toward treatment options were assessed by yes/no/uncertain responses. Caregivers were administered all of the above measures except the AALS, ALSFRS, and pain scale. Percentage, mean, and standard deviation values were determined. Significance levels were also calculated. Results: Twenty-seven patients with a mean age of 57.2 (range 34-81) years and nineteen caregivers with a mean age of 56.9 (range 28-82) years completed the study. The patients were of moderate disease severity with a mean AALS total score of 76.3 (range 39-134) and a mean ALSFRS score of 28.4 (range 12-40). The mean rating of QOL for patients was 5.9 and the mean rating of QOL for caregivers was 5.7 (range 1-7). The patients reported slightly less depression (9.8) than their caregivers (10.7) (range 0-63). There was, however, no significant difference between patients and caregivers on scores of QOL and depression. Patients tended to overestimate caregivers' QOL by a small degree, whereas caregivers tended to underestimate the patients' QOL by a greater degree. Over one-half of both groups would consider percutaneous esophageal gastrostomy (PEG) placement. Patient and caregiver responses to the use of BIPAP differed. Though over half of both groups endorsed the idea of future BIPAP use, more patients (41%) than caregivers (5%) were uncertain. Only 3% of patients responded negatively compared to 32% of caregivers. Both groups were only minimally interested in future invasive ventilation. Discussion: Factors contributing to quality of life, depression, and attitudes toward treatment options need to be periodically explored with patients and caregivers throughout the course of the illness. Health care professionals should recognize that the needs and goals of the two groups might differ. For both patients and caregivers, health care professionals should provide education and opportunities for discussion centered on the issues followed by referrals and interventions appropriate to the situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 15 2003


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Caregiver
  • Depression
  • Palliative care
  • Quality of life
  • Treatment choices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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