Prolonged grief and bereavement supports within a caregiver population who transition through a palliative care program in British Columbia, Canada

AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HOSPICE & PALLIATIVE MEDICINE | Online – 14 July 2021 – In this population of bereaved caregivers within the Fraser Health Authority, 4.7% (high-risk group) met the diagnostic criteria for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) 12-months after their loss. The rate of prolonged grief identified in this palliative care program is quite low. Studies that have similarly used the PG-13 [prolonged grief scale] to assess PGD, report rates between 1.8-15.1% at 12-13 months post-loss. The authors’ findings fit within this range. Risk factors for PGD include being female, a spouse or parent of the deceased, having a life-threatening illness, lower income, lack of social support, cultural or language barriers, prior loss, pre-existing mood or anxiety disorders, substance abuse, previous psychological trauma, insecure attachment with the deceased, and the death being sudden or violent. One might have expected the rates of PGD to be higher in the study population given that the majority of caregivers were female, the spouse of the deceased, and had experienced the previous loss of a loved one. Furthermore, almost half had mental or emotional issues or previous separation anxiety and nightmares, and 21% had financial concerns. However, the low rates of PGD in this population may be due to protective factors observed such as having a high level of education, being Caucasian (implies minimal cultural/language barriers), having religious beliefs, feeling well supported by others, and not struggling with substance use. In addition, the ease of accessibility to counselling and bereavement support groups available through the hospice societies in the Fraser Health region may contribute to a lower incidence of PGD.

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