There is mounting evidence of the physical therapist’s role in hospice and palliative care (HPC) for optimizing quality of life and engagement in remaining life activities. The purpose of this clinical summary is to describe the variety of roles and clinical approaches that physical therapists are able to contribute to the care of patients with a life-threatening or terminal illness. In addition, culture, religion, and individual patient/family preferences tend to be contributing factors as they relate to physical therapy (PT) in HPC. Physical therapists have multiple practice patterns that they can use in HPC for a variety of clinical signs and symptoms, patient situations, and disease trajectories. Access to PT services is inconsistent and often depends on the understanding of the role of PT within HPC. In addition, providers must acknowledge varying levels of acceptance and integration of PT and HPC based on individual and contextual factors. In order to optimize remaining quality of life and optimize care and safety, PT and HPC should be integrated in a collaborative, prospective manner, and PT should be closely integrated with the entire interdisciplinary HPC care team.
Christopher M. Wilson, DScPT, DPT, PT, is the hospice palliative care coordinator, World Confederation for Physical Therapy, London, England; chairperson, Hospice/Palliative Care Special Interest Group—American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria, Virginia; assistant professor, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan; and education coordinator, Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Michigan.
Karen Mueller, PhD, DPT, PT, is immediate past chair of the American Physical Therapy Association Hospice and Palliative Care Special Interest Group; professor, Program in Physical Therapy, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff; and consulting physical therapist, Vista Hospice, Flagstaff, Arizona.
Richard Briggs, MA, PT, is founding chair of the American Physical Therapy Association Hospice and Palliative Care Special Interest Group, and is principal consultant at Enloe HomeCare and Hospice, Chico, California.
Address correspondence to Christopher M. Wilson, DScPT, DPT, PT, Physical Therapy Program, School of Health Sciences, Oakland University, 433 Meadowbrook Rd, Rochester, MI 48309 (Wilson23@oakland.edu).
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.