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J Palliat Med. 2006 Jun;9(3):704-15.

Working with families in palliative care: one size does not fit all.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Center for Palliative Care and Ethics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York 14642-8409, USA.


Comprehensive palliative care requires that family concerns are understood and addressed. Yet medical professionals frequently lack formal training in family systems concepts and, therefore, may be unprepared to engage in family-inclusive approaches to treatment. In order to address this problem, we selectively review the literature on working with families in end-of-life settings and offer specific recommendations for involving families as collaborators in the care process. Based on existing theory regarding the development of family communication styles and problem-solving abilities, we propose a tentative framework for understanding and responding to a range of common family dynamics encountered in palliative care and hospice settings. In light of the lack of empirical studies in this area, we conclude with recommendations for future research.

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