[MOL] Doctors empathy can help caregivers...Caregivers Educational Serie [01848] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] Doctors empathy can help caregivers...Caregivers Educational Series 5 of 6....



Wednesday, March 22, 2000
Doc's Empathy Can Help Caregivers

      Caregivers facing the difficult burden of caring for an aging or sick relative often let their own physical and mental well-being go. Having a doctor willing to take the time to listen can help a great deal.
      A new study published in the March 21 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine showed 42 percent of caregivers with non-empathetic physicians reported signs of depression, compared to only 27 percent whose doctors offered a kind ear. The study also found caregivers caring for people with numerous physical needs showed symptoms of depression. These caregivers, researchers report, ended up taking out loans to cover health-care costs and often had to deal with patients considering physician-assisted suicide, an issue that can be emotionally draining.
      The conclusions are based on the study of 988 terminally ill patients and 893 caregivers living in six randomly chosen cities. Researchers, led by Ezekiel J. Emanuel of the Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, say the findings suggest a need to teach empathy to physicians and medical students. Suzanne Mintz, a caregiver herself and president of the National Family Caregivers Association, says physicians need to realize that although their legal responsibility is caring for their patients, the issues surrounding illness and disability are family problems, not just patient problems.
--By Katrina Woznicki