A devastated senior man dealing with some terrible news

While palliative care may be effective in managing the physical symptoms of seriously ill patients, it doesn’t effectively address the psychological pain those patients endure. Those are the findings of a study by Rutgers University researchers published Monday in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

The study looked at 38 previously published studies and combined them to examine the average effect of the interventions on psychological distress. The researchers found there were no statistically significant improvements in patient or caregiver anxiety, depression or psychological distress in a meta-analysis of 38 randomized clinical trials of palliative care interventions. 

Patients receiving palliative care often receive psychosocial support, but researchers said this approach is less effective than evidence-based therapeutic interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy. The study found palliative care interventions varied widely in terms of professional backgrounds of team members and use of evidence-based therapies for psychological distress. 

Researchers said patients receiving palliative care often suffer from depression, sadness, anxiety and fear due to their illnesses. Many of those patients are under treatment for cancer, heart failure and lung disease. 

The study also found more than a third of the participants in the 38 randomized clinical trials excluded people with pre-existing mental health conditions.

“This means that some of the people who might be most in need of palliative care’s integrative approach to suffering are not being represented in clinical trials, which could perpetuate inequalities for people with mental health conditions,” lead researcher Molly Nowels said in a statement. “We believe that researchers must include patients with existing mental health conditions in future palliative care intervention studies to improve the quality of care for this group.” 

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with serious illnesses. Patients receive medical care for their symptoms, as well as treatment intended to cure their illnesses.

This article originally appeared on McKnights Home Care