After an unexpected, life-altering diagnosis, families’ feelings of hope and acceptance can turn to feelings of despair and denial. These feelings may change day-to-day as a loved one’s health changes. Communication among many members of the family can help to move everyone forward together in unity around their loved one.

Although the process may be difficult, asking questions about caring for a family member facing a life-altering diagnosis is an important first step toward building harmony and peace:

  • What is the chance of improvement?
  • Who else do we need to talk to about the health status, medical issues and recovery possibilities?
  • Is pain being managed?
  • Is it time to consider involving hospice services? (Providing quality of life and comfort are the objectives of hospice care, rather than extending the length of life.)
  • What kinds of stress is the loved one’s condition and care needs putting on the family?
  • What other stress-related factors are family members also experiencing at this time?
  • How can the stress be addressed and minimized?

By communicating openly about these issues, the entire family can best prepare to support your loved one’s end-of-life wishes.

If hospice care is being considered, these kinds of conversations among family members are best held with a facilitator (such as a hospice chaplain or social worker), someone who is familiar with the terrain of a life-altering diagnosis. Hospice staff will encourage conversation and decision making that best represents your loved one’s wishes. Conversations should be honest, loving and respectful, while seeking common goals and perspectives.

You have shared many memories and stories together as a family. Once you have addressed your concerns and agreed upon a plan, you can focus on enjoying the remainder of the time you have with your loved one.