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Trajectories of disability in activities of daily living in advanced cancer or respiratory disease: a systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Early online date22 Sep 2020
Accepted/In press1 Jan 2020
E-pub ahead of print22 Sep 2020

King's Authors


INTRODUCTION: Advanced cancer and/or respiratory disease threaten a person's independence in activities of daily living (ADL). Understanding how disability develops can help direct appropriate and timely interventions.

AIM: To identify different trajectories and associations of disability in ADL and appraise its measurement.

METHODS: Medline, Embase, PsychINFO, and CINAHL databases were searched for cohort studies with measures of disability in ADL in advanced cancer or respiratory disease at three or more timepoints. Data were narratively synthesized to produce a typology of disability trajectories and a model of factors and outcomes associated with increasing disability.

RESULTS: Of 5702 publications screened, 11 were included. Seventy-four disability trajectories were categorized into typologies of unchanging (n = 20), fluctuating (n = 21), and increasing disability (n = 33). Respiratory disease did not predict any particular disability trajectory. Advanced cancer frequently followed trajectories of increasing disability. Factors associated with increasing disability included: frailty, multi-morbidity, cognitive impairment, and infection. Increased disability led to recurrent hospital admissions, long-term care, and/or death. Methodological limitations included use of non-validated measures.

CONCLUSIONS: Increasing disability trajectories in advanced cancer and/or respiratory disease is related to potentially modifiable personal and environmental factors. We recommend future studies using validated disability instruments. Implications for rehabilitation Disability in activities of daily living (ADL) is a common unmet need in advanced cancer or respiratory disease and represents an important outcome for patients, caregivers and health and social care services. Trajectories of ADL disability can be categorized into increasing, fluctuating, and unchanging disability, which could help planning of rehabilitation services in advanced cancer or respiratory disease. Increasing disability in advanced cancer or respiratory disease relates to personal and environmental factors as well as bodily impairments, which can all be modifiable by intervention. This review highlights implications for the measurement of ADL disability in advanced cancer or respiratory disease and recommends use of validated measures of ADL to understand what factors can be modified through rehabilitation interventions.

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