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Speaking with health care providers for a few extra minutes and receiving a brochure on bereavement appears to ease grief for relatives of patients dying in intensive care units (ICUs), new study findings suggest. French researchers randomly assigned family members of 126 patients dying in 22 ICUs to receive one of two types of end-of-life communication:


* the customary end-of-life conference, which generally lasts about 20 minutes


* an end-of-life conference that lasted about 30 minutes, in which families were encouraged to ask questions and voice concerns. They also received a brochure about bereavement at the end of the session.



Ninety days after the death of participants' loved ones, researchers interviewed family members by telephone and scored symptoms of bereavement according to the standardized Impact of Event Scale. Compared with people who'd received standard care, those who'd had a longer conference had a 24% lower incidence of stress, 22% fewer anxiety symptoms, and 27% fewer depression symptoms.

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Researchers say that health care providers could help people cope with the loss of a loved one by spending more time listening to them, not just talking.




Lautrette A, et al., A communication strategy and brochure for relatives of patients dying in the ICU, The New England Journal of Medicine, February 1, 2007.