Elderly with complicated grief benefit from targeted program, study says

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Complicated grief is an under-recognized problem in the elderly, but a specific treatment can help, a new study says.

Around 9% of bereaved older women have complicated grief, which can cause functional impairment and increased risk of suicide. Researchers at Columbia University School of Social Work looked at 151 individuals over five years. The average age was 66, and the group was divided into a targeted complication grief (CGT) program and interpersonal therapy. The CGT program focused on resolving grief complications, facilitating natural mourning and loss. The interpersonal therapy group focused on mood, assessment of the deceased, talking about the death and enhancing relationships.

While both groups improved, the response rate for those in the CGT was more than twice what it was in the other group. Symptom reduction was greater, and there was a larger decrease in the CGT group, researchers said. This ultimately means that a targeted program for complicated grief with older individuals may be more effective than treatment designed for depression.

Results appeared in JAMA Psychiatry.