OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to evaluate care needs, emotional and behavioral changes, and parental stress indices in a cohort of pediatric patients with epilepsy with neurocognitive and emotional comorbidities at the time of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
METHODS: This is a prospective observational study involving pediatric patients with epilepsy with neurocognitive and emotional comorbidities. Included patients were admitted to our hospital between August 2019 and February 2020 for epilepsy and neuropsychiatric assessment, and Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) questionnaires were filled in by parents. Those patients and their families accepted to participate in a phone follow-up visit in April-May 2020 and to refill CBCL and Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF) questionnaires. Descriptive statistics for demographic and clinical data, CBCL questionnaire scores before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and PSI-SF scores have been computed. Moreover, results of a short phone survey on the psychological burden during COVID lockdown have been reported.
RESULTS: This study provides the parental-proxy report of emotional and behavioral profile changes of 23 pediatric patients with epilepsy and neurocognitive and emotional comorbidities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns for therapy monitoring at the time of lockdown emerged in 43% of families, and 30% of patients showed worries for an altered contact with the referring medical team. Patients with neurocognitive comorbidities were more likely to exhibit behavioral problems, especially externalizing problems compared with patients with a diagnosis of anxiety/depression.
CONCLUSION: Our data suggest the importance to monitor disease trajectory and behavior and affective symptoms with telehealth strategies to provide effective care to patients and their families.