Caregivers at risk when loved ones die in hospitals

Read the study Place of death: correlations with quality of life of patients with cancer and predictors of bereaved caregivers' mental health

Quoting the National Cancer Institute's NCI Cancer Bulletin from September 21, 2010:

Hospitalization Near Death May Diminish Mental Health of Caregivers and Quality of Life for Cancer Patients

Bereaved caregivers of terminally ill cancer patients who died in hospitals or intensive care units (ICUs) are at increased risk for developing psychiatric problems compared with caregivers of patients who died at home, according to a study published online September 13 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The prospective study of 333 dying cancer patients and their closest caregivers-led by Dr. Alexi A. Wright and colleagues at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women's Hospital-was designed to determine principally whether the place of death for patients with cancer was associated with the patients' quality of life at the end of life, and also whether it was linked with increased risk for bereavement-related psychiatric disorders in their caregivers. 

The researchers reported that caregivers of patients who died in ICUs had an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared with caregivers of patients who died at home with hospice care: 21.1 percent compared with 4.4 percent. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that caregivers of patients who die in ICUs are at a heightened risk for developing PTSD," they wrote. In addition, caregivers of patients who died in the hospital had higher odds of suffering prolonged grief disorder: 21.6 percent compared with 5.2 percent among caregivers of patients who died with home hospice.

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