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Occupational therapy and physiotherapy interventions in palliative care: a cross-sectional study of patient-reported needs


Introduction An interdisciplinary team approach to patients in specialised palliative care is recommended; however, the composition of the professionals tends to vary, and the roles of physiotherapists and occupational therapists may be underestimated. We aimed to investigate patient-reported unmet needs, which potentially could benefit from physiotherapy and occupational therapy interventions in a specialised palliative care team.

Methods Adult patients with chronic advanced diseases referred to the Specialised Palliative Care Team at Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet were enrolled in the study. The Three-Levels-of-Needs Questionnaire was used as primary outcome to assess symptom/problem intensity, symptom/problem burden and felt needs for 12 commonly reported symptoms/problems for patients referred to a specialised palliative care team. Furthermore, participants’ level of distress, fatigue and physical activity, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and barriers towards the rehabilitation programme were registered with other measures.

Results In total, 43 of 67 (64%) patients participated. The majority of participants reported severe symptoms/problems concerning fatigue (81%), impaired physical activities (77%), carrying out work and daily activities (77%), pain (72%), and worries (58%). Furthermore, need for help was expressed concerning physical activities (79%), work and daily activities (77%), fatigue (70%), pain (65%), concentration (58%) and worries (51%). On average the patients characterised 6 (out of 12) symptoms/problems as severe.

Conclusion Patients referred to a specialised palliative care team reported extensive unmet needs concerning physical activities, work and daily activities, fatigue, pain, concentration and worries. Unmet needs that potentially could be alleviated by physiotherapists or occupational therapists implemented in the interdisciplinary team.

  • rehabilitation
  • palliative care
  • physical examination
  • assessment of health care needs
  • quality of life

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Data upon reasonable request will be available by contacting the corresponding author.

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