Many families today take advantage of hospice services to provide supportive care when a loved one is near the end of life. Hospices serve many thousands of patients each year, and provide high-quality cost-effective, compassionate care for people with life-limiting illnesses.
The hospice team, which may include the patient’s personal physician, nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, chaplains and home health aides, work closely with the patient and family to keep the patient comfortable and to ensure the best possible quality of life during the last days. Hospice care can be provided in the patient’s home, in a nursing home or other senior living community, or in a dedicated hospice facility.
But new research shows that while we’ve come a long way in supporting patients at the end of life, we sometimes fall short of supporting the most important members of the care team—family caregivers, who do so much for their loved one, yet may not take the time to focus on their own emotional, social and spiritual needs.
University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers recently published a study, “The Prevalence and Risks for Depression and Anxiety in Hospice Caregivers,” in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Lead researcher Debra Parker-Oliver reported that 25 percent of these caregivers experience moderate or severe depression, and nearly a third suffer from anxiety.
“While some sadness and worry are expected components of caring for a dying family member or loved one, clinical depression and anxiety shouldn’t be,” said Parker-Oliver, who is a professor in the university’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.
Parker-Oliver noted that younger caregivers were at higher risk of depression, and caregivers whose loved ones had Alzheimer’s had a higher level of depression than those who were suffering from cancer. Her team called for expanded depression screening and treatment for family caregivers who are caring for a loved one whose life is near the end.
Parker-Oliver reminds us, “Health providers usually are more focused on the terminally ill patient instead of the entire family. However, in many scenarios, it is a family disease. It’s fair to say they have two patients: the caregiver and the person who is terminally ill.”
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on a news release from the University of Missouri School of Medicine.