Resilience and Distress Among Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Patients and Caregivers

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The objectives of this study were to assess the prevalence of depressive disorders and symptoms and their correlates in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and caregiver spouses and to identify dimensions of resilience as well as distress.


Fifty-six patients with ALS and 31 caregivers were interviewed on one occasion, and 20 patients were subsequently reinterviewed during a scheduled medical visit at an ALS center. Major measures included the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Schedule of Attitudes Toward Hastened Death, quality of life, spirituality, and degree of hopelessness. The ALS Functional Rating Scale, spirometry measures of forced vital capacity, and the Karnofsky Performance Index were used to assess physical status.


Neither patients nor caregivers displayed significant psychopathology with respect to either current depressive disorders or scores on symptom scales. Depressive symptoms and psychological distress were not related to time since diagnosis, degree of disability, or illness progression during the period of observation. More interest in hastened death was associated with greater distress, but willingness to consider assisted suicide was not. Among caregivers, perceived caregiver burden was significantly associated with finding positive meaning in caregiving. Concordance between patient and caregiver distress was high, suggesting that attention to the mental health needs of caregivers may alleviate the patient’s distress as well.


Clinical depression or significant depressive symptomatology is not an inevitable or common outcome of life-threatening illness, even in the presence of major disability.

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