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Minorities Less Likely to Use Hospice Care: Study

FRIDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Minority patients with heart failure are less likely to use hospice care than whites, new research finds.

Hospice provides palliative care for the terminally ill. The goal is to ease pain and discomfort, and to focus on quality of life as death approaches. Overall, use of hospice care is increasing, according to researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine.

Their study found that nonwhite Medicare patients with heart failure were 20 percent less likely to enroll in hospice than white patients. Nonwhite patients were also more likely to drop out of hospice care than whites.

"When considering end-of-life care options, it is important to consider hospice services at home, in nursing homes or in hospice facilities," study author Dr. Kathleen Unroe, a scientist with the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, said in a university news release. "Our findings highlight that there is a significant difference between how white patients and nonwhite patients and their families utilize hospice services."

The study, which looked at records on nearly 220,000 heart failure patients on Medicare, was published in the June issue of the American Heart Journal.

Nearly 1.6 million people received hospice services in 2010, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. About 42 percent of all deaths in the United States were under the care of a hospice program in 2010.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on hospice care.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Indiana University School of Medicine, news release, June 25, 2012

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