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Sick Spouse Bad For Your Health

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the debilitating illness or injury of a husband or wife can hasten the death of their spouse.

“You can die of a broken heart not just when a partner dies, but when your partner falls ill,” said chief researcher Dr. Nicholas Christakis at Harvard Medical School.

The study at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania was published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine. The research, backed by the National Institutes of Health, analyzed Medicare records from a representative national sample of 518,240 elderly couples over nine years.

Men were 4.5 percent more likely than usual to die on any given day after their wives were hospitalized; women with sick husbands were almost 3 percent more likely to die.
If the sick spouse dies, the partner’s risk of death – whether from accidents, suicide, infections or pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes – shoots up fivefold, rising by 21 percent for men and 17 percent for women, the researchers said.

For the full story: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/354/7/719

Why is this imortant to us? It leads to a better understanding of the value of non-medical home care to the surviving spouse. This research suggests to me that we can help not only the sick or injured person but their spouse as well when we provide home care services.

What do you think? Does home care for a sick or injured person also have tangible, observable benefits to their caregiver spouse? How can we quantify that? How can we use that as benefit in communicating the advantages of our services?

Let us hear from you. Add your comments below.

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