Acute illnesses, use of health services, and changes in medication among parents after infant or child death

Dorothy Brooten, Jo Anne M. Youngblut, Rosa M. Roche, Carmen Caicedo, Teresa Del-Moral, G. Patricia Cantwell, Balagangadhar R. Totapally

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Abstract

Background The death of an infant or child has been described as the most stressful life event, but few reports exist on the effects on parents' physical health in the year after the death. Objective To examine acute illnesses, use of health services, and medication changes among parents from 3 racial/ethnic groups 1 to 13 months after the death of an infant or child in the neonatal intensive care unit or pediatric intensive care unit. Methods In a longitudinal study, 96 parents (41% black, 32% Hispanic, 27% white) of deceased infants or children were recruited from 4 children's hospitals and death records. Parents reported demographic information, acute illnesses, health services used, and medication changes 1 to 13 months after the death. Descriptive statistics and 1-way analysis of variance were used to analyze the data. Results Seventy mothers (age, mean [SD], 35.9 [7.13] years) and 26 fathers (age, 39.0 [7.37] years) participated; 56% of mothers and 42% of fathers had preexisting health problems before the death. Morbidity was greatest in the first 6 months, was relatively quiescent in months 7 through 10, and increased in months 11 through 13. Mothers reported 363 acute illnesses, 16 hospitalizations, and 124 medication changes. Morbidity rates and medication changes for fathers followed similar patterns but with lower frequency. Conclusion After the death of an infant or child, interventions for parents, especially parents with chronic health problems, are best targeted on illness prevention and mental health in months 1 to 6 and 11 to 13 following the death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Critical Care
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2018

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care

Cite this

Brooten, D., Youngblut, J. A. M., Roche, R. M., Caicedo, C., Del-Moral, T., Patricia Cantwell, G., & Totapally, B. R. (2018). Acute illnesses, use of health services, and changes in medication among parents after infant or child death. American Journal of Critical Care, 28(3), 193-201. https://doi.org/10.4037/ajcc2019572