Family support: a key element in Palliative Care

Updated: Dec 30, 2021



(Read the spanish version here)


Everyone can state the importance of the family in our emotional well-being. Along with friendships, it is one of the greatest psychological supports we have.

This importance is even greater at times when health suffers, and very specifically for patients in need of Palliative Care and for those with chronic or very advanced illnesses, as well as for patients in the last phase of life.

In many cases, in addition to emotional support, families also take part in other necessities that patients may need, like aiding with medical treatments or therapies prescribed by doctors. From the point of view of Palliative Care work, therefore, patient and family are considered as a unit, and the approach to the psychological well-being of the patient is carried out jointly.

When we professionals approach patients who are in the last stage of life, pain is often one of the main concerns they present. But we are not only talking about pain in a physical sense, but also psychological pain. This can be caused not only by the person's current situation, but also by other factors. We can speak of four realities: the medical, the psychological, the spiritual and the social. It is in the latter that we place the family. All these factors can influence the patient's pain and the persistence of this symptom.

On the social aspect, palliative teams work with fears, insecurities and worries. When they are related to the family, they are usually linked to the situation in which the patient is in, the uncertainty that is created in the family, the fears that are natural in these situations or even conflicts or aspects that need to be resolved in the relationship between them and which can be very important.

To prevent and help resolve these problems, palliative teams create an action plan that takes into account the whole family, since the patient is not an isolated unit, but forms part of this social group. In this way, many of these sufferings can be avoided or they can be worked out together to solve the difficulties.

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