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Palliative Care Eases Suffering for Seniors at End of Life: Study

THURSDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Palliative care improved the quality of life for seniors in long-term care, according to a new study.

Specifically, it led to a significant reduction in emergency room visits and depression among the elderly patients, said the researchers at Hebrew SeniorLife's Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and Institute for Aging Research, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Palliative care is meant to reduce symptoms -- such as pain, nausea and fatigue -- in patients with serious illnesses. These findings show palliative care's potential for improving the quality of end-of-life care for people in long-term care, the researchers said.

Their two-year study included 250 elderly long-term care patients, half of whom received palliative care. Recipients had about half as many emergency room visits and were much less likely to suffer depression, compared to those who didn't receive palliative care.

The study was published Dec. 10 in The Gerontologist.

"The national health care crisis has created a mandate to cut costs while improving care for millions of aging Americans who would otherwise experience frequent hospitalizations and futile aggressive care in their last months," study author Jody Comart, palliative care director, said in a Hebrew SeniorLife news release.

"Many patients and families fear a painful, undignified death. The palliative care team is an elegant model that can improve care for long-term care residents and, at the same time bring down costs. This study showed a decrease in emergency room visits for palliative care patients, avoiding an often frightening event for patients and families, while decreasing the high cost of this expensive service for our health care system," Comart said.

More information

The Center to Advance Palliative Care has more about palliative care.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research, news release, December 2012

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