October 9, 2008

Gulf Between Healthcare and Severely Ill

There is often a lack of adequate communication between healthcare providers and patients facing death, U.S. researchers suggest.

A series of articles published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences point out the need to address treatment preferences and symptom burden among sufferers of advanced illness.

The research highlights the importance of consistent, planned interactions with older adults and discussions about goals of care.

Darryl Wieland of Palmetto Health Richland Hospital in Columbia, S.C., who co-edited the special journal section with Dr. Christine S. Ritchie of the University of Alabama in Birmingham say early discussions about treatment choices are especially encouraged, because many older adults have limitations in health literacy and cognitive capacity brought on by multiple chronic illnesses.

"The common theme is the large gulf between healthcare science, practices and systems, and the understanding needed to deal with the issues faced by older patients regarding care preferences at the end of life," Wieland said in a statement.