PURPOSE: Worldwide, an increasing number of people are diagnosed with atypical Parkinsonism or idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD). Periods of acute functional decline, triggered by acute disease, are common. Rehabilitation is often necessary to restore functioning. Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in the Netherlands have developed evidence-based geriatric rehabilitation for Parkinson (GR-P) programs. However, data on the experiences and needs of patients and their caregivers are lacking. This study aims to address these, in order to propose recommendations for improvement.
METHODS: We performed a qualitative study, using semi-structured interviews in two Dutch SNFs offering GR-P. Nine patients with PD and six informal caregivers were included. We subjected verbatim transcripts of 15 interviews to qualitative analysis.
RESULTS: Data saturation was reached after 15 interviews. Three overarching themes emerged: (1) autonomy, (2) sharing information and (3) contact with others. Loss of autonomy was linked to the underlying disease and the rehabilitation environment itself. Patients and caregivers felt overwhelmed by events before and during rehabilitation, expressing a need to receive information and discuss prior experiences. They considered communication between hospitals and SNFs to be poor. Patients did not always appreciate contact with peers. Both patients and caregivers appreciated empathic healthcare personnel with a firm knowledge on PD.
CONCLUSIONS: Autonomy, sharing information and contact with others are central themes for patients and caregivers during GR-P in SNFs. We recommend actively exploring these three central themes with every patient and caregiver entering a GR-P program and offering staff continuing education on PD, in order to improve care.