Widows/widowers benefit if their spouse received hospice services

Research by Nicholas A. Christakis, Harvard Medical School, and Theodore J. Iwashyna, University of Pennsylvania, published in Social Science and Medicine, indicates that hospice reduces the risk of death in widows and widowers after the death of their spouse.

Quoting from the research paper: 

Using a population-based sample of the elderly, we assessed the potentially beneficial impact of hospice—a supportive type of medical care that might be offered to dying patients— on the spouses of patients who died. We found that this type of care, even when used for a median of 3-4 weeks, may be associated with the subsequent health outcomes of bereaved spouses in that it reduces their risk of death.This impact is present in both men and women, but it is statistically significant, and possibly larger, in bereaved wives.... Indeed, the end-of-life care a woman's husband receives has an impact on the woman similar in magnitude to that of various other modifiable diet and exercise risk factors. 
...
In short, mortality in a spouse is clearly a stressful life event, one which itself also deprives the individual of one of their principal sources of social support. As a result of these two parallel effects, the individual should be at increased risk for subsequent mortality himself. In this light, our findings suggest that hospice care might both decrease the stressfulness of the death of the decedents and simultaneously provide some social support that potentially partially replaces the support lost due to the death of the spouse; these twin effects might be the mechanism involved in the mitigation by hospice of the short-term rise in mortality ordinarily associated with bereavement. 

...since the manner of caring for patients might have effects beyond the individual patient, our findings suggest an important clinical consideration for doctors caring for terminally ill patients or their partners.Physicians concerned about the impact of impending bereavement have another tool at their disposal beyond bereavement counseling or medication; namely, they can attend to the specific manner of death of the sick partner before it occurs. To do so may also carry out the physician's primary duty to respect patients' wishes because terminally ill patients consider it very important that they not burden their family members. Our results suggest that hospice care may offer a tool to patients and physicians that may soften the blow of the decedent's death. 

How we care for the terminally ill may have lasting health effects for their loved ones. 

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