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UGA Professor Proposes "Bereavement Care" for Those Who Have Recently Lost Someone Close

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UGA
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A UGA professor is working on a creating a new type of care for those who have recently lost a loved one. 

 

Toni Miles, a professor of epidemiology in the UGA College of Public Health, started noticing something as she got older – more people were dying around her. And that gave her an idea, one she calls bereavement care. It’s designed for those who have recently experienced the loss of someone close to them.

 

“So bereavement care, means basically identifying, if you’re doing it for someone else, where they are and what they need,” said Miles. “And so sometimes they just need you to sit there and shut up and be quiet with them. Sometimes they need stuff.”

 

Miles has found that there is a relationship between a decline in a person’s health and a recent death of someone close to them, which is why she thinks bereavement care is so important.  

 

“We did analyses of nationally representative samples of people 50 and older. So losing someone influences your own risk of dying. And it goes up two-fold in the first six years. But it never returns to baseline,” said Miles. “You’re always at risk when you lose someone close. The second one is though, people who lose someone, are more at risk for being hospitalized.”

 

But Miles says bereavement care is not only for family and friends of the deceased. It’s also for staff at the hospice or nursing home who’ve had consistent interactions with the patient.

 

That’s why she’s developed a set of best practices for bereavement care which will soon be distributed to every nursing home across Georgia - there are 364 nursing homes in the state.