Hospice spouses less depressed: study

Symptoms of depression are less common in the spouses of hospice residents when compared to families where hospice was not involved, a recent study suggests.

Investigators at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York City studied data from a national survey and Medicare claims, and followed more than 1,000 surviving spouses of deceased patients who were over age 50. They found those whose spouses were in hospice for at least three days were less depressed, and the positive effect was more prominent a year after the death.

Although they could not correlate specific services with improvement of symptoms, hospice offered medical services, symptom management, spiritual counseling, social services and bereavement counseling.

Approximately 45% of terminally ill residents die while receiving hospice care in the U.S, more than a 20% increase from the past decade.

This was the first national study to examine the mental health of spouses of residents with all types of serious illnesses; prior studies focused mostly on cancer patients and their families.