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Grief: Supporting Patients and Families

  • Show an empathic understanding of the patient's strengths. Reinforce expressions of positive thinking and realistic goal setting.
  • Offer information about the patient's illness, and correct any misunderstanding or misinformation.
  • Discuss with patient ways to best use resources of family members to help him or her remain independent but still obtain necessary assistance. Focus on ways to carry on usual routines and schedules in spite of changing circumstances. Include family in discussion as appropriate.
  • Encourage patient to engage in supportive relationships with family and friends.
  • Work with patient in focusing on ways to achieve short-term goals. This may include, for example, symptom relief, completion of relational tasks, resolution of relational problems.
  • When interacting with patient's family, allow time for family members to express grief. Use a problem-solving approach to help them identify their problems pertaining to caregiving. Lead them through a step-by-step discussion of how to approach each problem. Encourage family to use available community resources (e.g., hospice, respite care).
  • Offer frequent sessions that allow patient opportunity to further express grief and discuss fears or concerns.
  • Offer to instruct patient in relaxation strategies: guided imagery, relaxation, meditation.
  • For patients in terminal stage of illness, support frequent visits with loved ones, review lifetime stories or photographs, help patient engage in meaning-engendering projects such as organizing photo albums or writing journals.