Chapter 3: The visit

When the patient is agitated, aggressive, delirious, or in pain

“There is no clear line about what's too much for a child to experience. It's about matching the support and the resources with how difficult the situation is and the unique qualities of the child, rather than prematurely concluding this is too difficult”. – Child life specialist 

If the patient is highly irritable, floridly delirious, or otherwise overcome by pain, decisions about visiting should be made based on the preferences of the child and their parent(s), and your team’s clinical judgement and experience. Discuss with the family if having the child witness certain events might be overwhelming.

Regardless of the decision, it’s important that you explain to the child how the illness, injury, medication, or dying process can mix up a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This will help to clarify that the patient’s actions do not reflect how they feel about the child.


Clinician Tip

Exploring options

If the child wants to have a visit, explain that you will do your best but if the patient is too sick or too upset, the family will have to stop and try again another day.

Explaining difficult behaviours to children