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Study Finds Nursing Home Care of Dying Is Deficient

  • January 9th, 2004

Families of many patients who died in nursing homes and hospitals believe that their relatives did not receive adequate pain medication, emotional support or respect during their final days, according to a new study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study's lead author Dr. Joan Teno, professor of community health and medicine at Brown Medical School in Rhode Island, and her colleagues interviewed the relatives of 1,578 adult patients who died in 2000. Nearly 70 percent of the patients died in hospitals or nursing homes. The study found that one-quarter of the patients did not receive adequate pain medication, according to family members, and 50 percent of the patients did not receive adequate emotional support. Under-medication was most common in nursing homes.

Families of those who died in nursing homes or hospitals were far more likely to be dissatisfied with the care their relatives received, compared with those whose relatives died at home or in hospice care.

Teno, citing widespread staffing shortages at nursing homes, said that basic things like turning patients in bed are not being done.

"I can order an MRI much easier than I can assure my patient gets turned every two hours to prevent a bed sore," she said. "That's one of the paradoxes in our health care system now."

"We need to figure out how to provide higher quality of care in nursing homes, and the stress on the system is only going to get worse in the next decade with baby boomers," Teno said.

For an article on the study in the Boston Herald, click here.

For an abstract of the JAMA study and information on obtaining the full text, go to: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/291/1/88

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Last Modified: 01/09/2004

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