Resources for Families during Life-Threatening Illnesses

Life-threatening illnesses can impose severe psycho-social, financial, and physical Stressors that affect both the patient and the patient's family members. Loved ones must grapple with their own reactions to potential loss while providing support to the patient. Under the strain of a medical crisis, many families may need assistance adapting to illness-related changes and sustaining mutual support. This entry offers descriptions of assessment tools used to identify psychosocially distressed families as well as interventions that can strengthen family resilience in the context of a life-threatening illness.

History and Background

Cicely Saunders, a key figure in the hospice movement, was one of the first to formally recognize the importance of including family members in the focus of palliative care. She identified the family as “second-order” patients, whose distress ...

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