Restrictions in communicative abilities are well known in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but only few approaches in terms of evaluation of supportive technologies have been made. We aimed to assess the use and perceived usability of eye-tracking computer devices (ETCS) of severely impacted patients with ALS in an independent, direct manner and relate it to psychological well-being. ETCS enable active communication and social participation in the quadriplegic and anarthric disease state. Therefore, ETCS-based versions of widely used psychosocial questionnaires (ADI-12, SeiQoL-DW, WHO-5) as well as structured questions on communicative functioning and ETCS usage were developed to assess ALS patients, their next of kin and professional caregivers. Eleven patients (ALSFRS-R: 5.3 ± 5.9; ALS duration: 6.5 ± 3.8 years, range 1‒12; 82% invasively ventilated), nine next of kin and 10 professional caregivers could be assessed. Patients reported a mean use of their personal ETCS of 9.1 h per d (range 0.5‒16), with a high user satisfaction, preservation of communicative abilities and subjective indispensability of the ETCS. ETCS use was associated with higher psychological well-being. Next of kin and professional caregivers also nominated some critical aspect, which remains to be clarified. Our results strengthen the evidence that preserved mental autonomy influences psychological well-being in ALS and might even modify disease course and end-of-life-decisions in ALS.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; end-of-life decisions; eye-tracking; palliative care; quality of life.