I remember my grandma telling me that her brother “died of a broken heart,” shortly after losing his beloved wife of 40 years. As a child, I truly believed that my uncle’s heart broke into pieces inside his chest. It made me sad but as I got older, I realized that the heart is a muscle and doesn’t “break.” So, why would grandma say something like that if it couldn’t be true?
In a recent Swedish study, this “phenomenon” was found to have a real, medical validity! What the study found was that the stress of losing a family member can hasten the death of patients with heart failure (HF), in fact, the relative risk of dying was nearly 30% higher in patients with HF, with the highest risk in the first week after the loss. Researchers now believe that it is important to have awareness and to integrate psychosocial factors in the treatment of patients with HF.
I, for one, think this is great advice – including psychosocial factors as part of an interdisciplinary treatment plan for all residents, not only those with HF. Hopefully, this is something you and your team are already doing, however, if you aren’t, this study should make you pause. How many of your residents have lost a loved one in the past year? How many of your residents have a diagnosis of heart failure (HF)? Are mental health providers partners on your “medical team?” Take a look, you may be surprised to find you aren’t utilizing mental health resources your residents could benefit from. Stay informed and stay well!