Published on: August 4, 2022

A recent study finds a connection between bereavement and mortality risk when it involved loss of a partner, child, sibling or grandchild. This included loss by natural causes and unnatural deaths, such as suicide.

Heart failure mortality risk increased by 20% after the death of a spouse or partner, 13% with a sibling, 10% on losing a child,  and 5% if it were a grandchild, according to the study.

No increased risk was seen after the death of a parent, which is likely owed to a median patient age of about 75 years and “is in line with our expectations of the life cycle”, wrote Patrice Wendling, quoting researchers. Her article, published in ‘Medscape’ online medical journal, points out the need to provide bereavement support to surviving family members who were at risk of unbearable heartbreak.

The findings serve as a call for palliative care centres and hospices world over to go more deeply into bereavement support and highlights an urgent need to take care of surviving family members, more so the family caregivers.  Organisations and professionals working in the field of end of life care and palliative care need to look beyond death of the patient, and do so even before the passing happens. Why not look at the heart health of the family caregivers while attending to the patient needs at the end of life, and follow it up with consistent grief support?

Indeed, some of the most worthwhile things that Pallium India has been able to do is to give attention to these matters as a routine. Our preliminary assessment and follow up necessarily include health issues of the immediate family. We also have a bereavement support group called “Unarv’ (meaning awakening) for those who accept continued support.

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