Sinoff, (2017) in his study titled “Thanatophobia (Death Anxiety) in the elderly: the Problem of the child’s inability to Assess their Own Parent’s Death Anxiety state” aimed to understand phenomenon that relates to the presence of death anxiety in non-terminally elderly inpatients and their children. The author asserts that death anxiety affects people in different ways and has always been described using several names including fear at the thought of death or anxiety or even a feeling of dread. It is in this regard that Sigmund Freud termed this kind of feeling as thanatophobia. Death anxiety has been related to the fear of suffering, fear of the body after death or the fear of ceasing to be and is influenced by factors including gender, religiosity, age, as well as the psychological state of mind.
Research studies have documented results separate constructs of death anxiety and as such created the gap of identifying whether there is a difference between fear of death and fear of the dying process. Critical medical decisions by the medical staff, family members of the patient and the patients themselves have been slowed because of death anxiety. The delayed decision-making process has been more prominent in middle age children of elderly patients because of their limited understanding of the difference between death anxiety between the young and the poor. Therefore an understanding of this phenomenon may help to hasten decision processes within a hospital setting. This paper seeks to review the method used in the study, results derived and conclusion made by Sinoff (2017) in this study.
The researcher used adopted a cross-sectional study design which involved 44 child-patient pairs from the inpatient geriatric ward. The study hypothesized that the death anxiety levels would be higher in children compared to the elderly. However, the elderly will depict more fear of dying than actual death and that the children will correctly assess the levels of death anxiety experienced by their parents. The assessment of death anxiety in both elderly parents and the children was administered using Templer’s Death Anxiety Scale (DAS). The dependent variable being tested was death anxiety score (fear of death or fear of dying process) while the independent variable was age (in the young or old population), gender, religiosity, the presence of depression, educational level, and cognitive decline.
The study results showed a significant mean difference in the DAS scores between the elderly and the children. Unlike the children, the elderly depicted low score Templer’s Death Anxiety Scale (DAS) with a mean of 4.0/15 compared the children who scored mean 6.9/15 (P-value < 0.01). The proxy-assessment scores for the parents were higher by children than for the actual score of the elderly. Both parents and the children stated that they were afraid of a painful death. Using regression analysis, generalized anxiety disorder was identified as the independent predicting factor to DAS score (P < 0.01). Other variables such as age, religiosity, gender, the presence of depression, educational level, and cognitive decline were not identified as significant independent predictors to DAS score. The study concludes that children fear death while the elderly parents fear the dying process. Nonetheless, the children extrapolate their fears of death onto their parents and as such may prevent the disclosure of critical information to the parents. In this view, medical staff should foster open and honest communication with the patients and their family members. Discussion The scientific study by Sinoff (2017) offers credible and reliable information based on the study design used. The method adopted was suitable for this kind of study since it provided a snap-shot of what the situation is at the geriatric inpatient section. The analysis method used perfectly answered the study questions while using p-values to depict significant levels. The reliability of the study results was also promoted by the use of Templer’s Death Anxiety Scale which a credible data collecting tool for this kind of study. The population size of 44 people also increases the generalizability of the study results. The study, however, included cognitive decline that mostly affected the elderly and not the young population thereby increasing the confounding effect among the elderly. Conclusion The study holds educative information about death anxiety suggesting that various factors influence death anxiety namely age, religiosity, gender, the presence of depression, educational level, and cognitive decline. Sinoff (2017) did a good job of coming up with the study design, data analysis and interpretation of results. It explains succinctly about the existing difference in death anxiety between the elderly and the young denoting that more often than not the elderly are more worried about the process of dying rather than the actual death itself while the children are more concerned about the actual death. I would recommend this study to other students as it better explains the difference in death anxiety between the elderly and the young. Further research studies in this field should compare results between data collected using Templer’s Death Anxiety Scale and another tool to identify whether the same results will be replicated.