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Family Communication and End of Life

  • By: Joy Goldsmith, Elaine Wittenberg-Lyles & Sara Shaunfield
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Family communication is integral to hospice and palliative care as families and patients face decisions about curative care and the turn toward comfort care. Family communication occurs both within families and between family members and health care stakeholders. Family communication at the end of life is influenced by learned family communication patterns, potentially creating conflict that can negatively impact patient care and family distress. Communication is a substantial component of end-of-life care, and the interactions between health care professionals and family are central to effective decisions about patients.

Reciprocal Suffering

Family members, along with the patient, are considered the unit of care as they share in anxiety, depression, distress, and fear. This duality of experience for family and patient is termed “reciprocal suffering.” Family members often ...

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