Keeping Grieving Families Informed

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In a conclusion to a recent study performed by Alexandre Laurette, M.D. and colleagues of the Saint-Louis Hospital explains that formal “end-of-life conferences” with family members of dying patients can help significantly reduce the burden of stress that is inevitable at times of loss.

The study compared a formalized family intervention with more conventional family conferences. They found that three months after the death of a loved one, those family members who went through the formalized process had lower levels of post-traumatic stress disorder and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

A proactive strategy for routine end-of-life family conferences that included provision of a brochure on bereavement, as compared with customary practice, resulted in longer meetings in which families had more opportunities to speak and to express emotions, felt more supported in making difficult decisions, experienced more relief from guilt, and were more likely to accept realistic goals of care

This study is groundbreaking in its demonstration of a statistically and clinically significant improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD among family members, and it shows that expanding the focus of critical care to include family-centered outcomes is appropriate and desirable,” they wrote. “In reporting these advances in the peer-reviewed literature, it is often difficult for authors to fully explain the core of their interventions, in part because of the complex, diverse, and emotion-laden nature of these multidimensional conversations.

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