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Rickerson EM, Somers C, Allen CM, Lewis B, Strumpf N, Casarett DJ. How well are we caring for caregivers? Prevalence of grief-related symptoms and need for bereavement support among long-term care staff. Journal of pain and symptom management. 2005 Sep 1; 30(3):227-33.
To define the prevalence and correlates of grief-related symptoms among long-term care staff who care for patients near the end of life, a cross-sectional survey was conducted at six Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organizations that provide long-term care in the home and in institutions. All clinical and non-clinical program staff were surveyed to examine the prevalence of 20 grief-related symptoms and assess current sources of bereavement support, as well as willingness to use additional sources of support. Surveys were completed by 203/236 staff (86%), who described a wide variety of symptoms they attributed to the death of one of their patients in the past month. Most staff (147/203; 72%) reported at least one symptom. Staff with more symptoms had experienced more patient deaths in the past month (Spearman rho = 0.20, P = 0.007), had worked for a longer time at a PACE organization (Spearman rho = 0.16, P = 0.031), and reported a closer and longer relationship with the last patient who died (Spearman rho = 0.32, P < 0.001; rho = 0.24, P = 0.001). Although staff identified several informal sources of bereavement support (mean 2.3 sources, range 0-6), almost all (n = 194; 96%) said they would use additional support services if they were offered. These community-based long-term care staff experience a variety of symptoms attributable to the deaths of their patients, and would welcome additional sources of bereavement support.