Real world experience of change in psycho-existential symptoms in palliative care



Psycho-existential symptoms in palliative care are addressed insufficiently. Routine screening, ongoing monitoring and meaningful treatment of psycho-existential symptoms may contribute to the relief of suffering in palliative care.


We sought to explore longitudinal change in psycho-existential symptoms following the routine implementation of the Psycho-existential Symptom Assessment Scale (PeSAS) in Australian palliative care services.


Using a multisite rolling design, we implemented the PeSAS to longitudinally monitor symptoms in a cohort of 319 patients. We assessed change scores for each symptom in groups with mild (≤3), moderate (4–7) and severe (≥8) symptomatology at baseline. We tested significance between these groups and used regression analyses to identify predictors.


While one half of patients denied clinically important psycho-existential symptoms, for the remainder, overall, more patients improved than deteriorated. Between 20% and 60% of patients with moderate and severe symptoms improved, while another 5%–25% developed new symptom distress. Patients with severe baseline scores improved significantly more than those with moderate baseline scores.


As we better recognize through screening patients carrying psycho-existential distress in palliative care programs, there is considerable room for improvement in ameliorating this suffering. Inadequate clinical skills, poor psychosocial staffing or a biomedical program culture may all contribute to inadequate symptom control. Person-centered care necessitates greater attention to authentic multidisciplinary care that ameliorates psycho-spiritual and existential distress.


Existential, palliative care, psychological symptoms, screening, symptom treatment

Link to Publisher Version (URL)


This document is currently not available here.

Find in your library