Chapter 2: Strategies to assess and engage with families

Assessing the social situation

By learning about a family’s social context—their circumstances, history, and relationships, you’ll be better able to offer support.


Everyone has a story behind their ICU experience 

The unique relationship between the patient and each family member can give you an indication of how the patient’s death will impact each of them. These differences influence how each family member responds to stress and grief.

 Examples of factors that will negatively affect a person’s bereavement include:

  • A problematic relationship (e.g., one involving abuse).
  • An exceptionally close or dependant relationship (e.g., a family member who doesn’t know how to drive, cook a meal, or balance a chequebook).

In addition to relationships within the family, it’s helpful to know something about their other relationships. Do family members have close friends, extended family, faith or other communities that can support them? Individuals who are socially isolated often fare worse in bereavement.