Chapter 2: Strategies to assess and engage with families
“No one prepared me for what this death was going to be like. Maybe they don’t always know but having some ideas would really help”. - Family member
Most families have no way of knowing what to anticipate in an ICU. There are many variables that can influence a family’s understanding, such as:
- Their expectations of what the ICU team can and cannot do.
- Their understanding of the patient’s medical condition.
- What they have been told by other health care professionals prior to or during the hospital admission.
- Their readiness or willingness to hear difficult news.
Family members with unrealistic expectations of patient recovery may be more at risk for future difficulties, including traumatic grief.
“Tell me what you know about [name]/ your dad's medical situation".
Consider offering a pamphlet (such as When death is near) with information on what they might expect as the end of life approaches. This allows the family to read through information in their own time and ask questions when they are ready.