The spouses of patients receiving hospice report fewer depression symptoms than those of patients receiving end of life care in other settings, according to a US study.
It found spouses of those receiving hospice for three or more days more frequently reported a “modest” reduction in symptoms of depression, compared to the spouses of patients who did not receive hospice care.
The authors, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said currently 45% of terminally-ill patients in the US died while receiving hospice care.
They analysed data from 1,016 deceased patients and their surviving spouses, who were then followed through bereavement up to two years after death.
The researchers found that improvement in depressive symptoms was more common among those who had used a hospice – a benefit that was even more pronounced a year after death.
“We should consider the potential benefit not just to the patient, but to the caregiver”
However, they noted that it was unknown which specific aspects of hospice care were associated with improved symptoms for spouses.
Hospice services included medical services, symptom management, spiritual counselling, social services and bereavement counselling delivered by an interdisciplinary team of professionals for patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live and who agree to forego curative treatments.
Lead author Katherine Ornstein, assistant professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Mount Sinai, said: “We know hospice provides high quality care to patients, but now we’re also seeing a benefit for spouses.
“If we want to understand the impact of hospice care, we should consider the potential benefit not just to the patient, but to the caregiver, and perhaps, the entire family and social network,” she said.
The findings have been published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.