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End of Life Care Series

In the United States about 80% of individuals who die are age 65 years or older. Older persons who face end of life care issues due to chronic illness and cancer should begin the process of planning for end of life care matters. Often times end of life care decisions involve the support of family members and or friends. The road to addressing end of life care issues include: planning, developing advance directives, creating a will and deciding on a durable power of attorney for healthcare. Specific issues addressed in the advance directive include: pain management, life sustaining treatment options, etc. Healthcare decisions by patients are often based on cultural influences/factors as well as psychosocial supports. Additionally, decisions that influence end of life care include: communication between the healthcare team and patient/family regarding healthcare status and prognosis. It is important that communication coming from the healthcare team be clear and address healthcare goals and expectations of the patient and family to help facilitate a successful end of life care plan. Addressing end of life care matters in a comprehensive fashion will assist with making the patient’s end of life experience as comfortable as possible.

This series of learning modules discusses the following areas: communication, psychosocial supports, pain and symptom management, advance care directives, occupational and physical therapies at the end of life.

Module 3: Effective Communication in End of Life Care: The Family Meeting


Barbara Reville, MS, APRN-BC, ACHPN
Nancy A Hodgson, PhD, RN
Laraine Winter, PhD
Tarae Waddell-Terry, MS

Christine Arenson, MD, Cecilia Borden, EdD,MSN,RN, Charles Brown, MSW, LCSW,
Emily Hajjar, Pharm.D., BCPS, CGP, Leigh Ann Hewston, PT, Med, Christine Hsieh, MD,
Susan Parks, MD, Tracey Vause-Earland, MS, OTR/L, Tarae Waddell-Terry, MS

The project described was supported by Grant Number #D31HP08834 from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Health Resources and Services Administration: Department of Health and Human Services.


A family meeting is a conference between patient, family members and the healthcare team involved in the care of the patient. Family meetings help to clarify decision making, promotes shared decision making, increases family satisfaction with care.

The concept of this module is to give healthcare professionals and students an understanding of what a family meeting is, when and why a family meeting should take place.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this module, the participant will be able to:

  • Identify how the family meeting is an essential tool to assist in end of life (EOL).
  • Review sentinel events precipitating family meetings.
Estimated time for completion: 30 minutes

Since this module will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, it is designed to track your progress allowing you to complete the module in more than one sitting. The progress tracking feature allows you to return to your previous session from any computer.

Saving and Printing Responses to Questions:

Use the Save Answer button under each response text box to save your responses. Saved responses can be viewed or updated in subsequent sessions. All responses can be printed from the last screen of the module. The Print Answers button on that screen generates a PDF document that may be saved or printed.

Technical Requirements and Notes:

This learning module uses Adobe Flash media and may require you to add a browser "plug-in" in order to display properly. Most computers already have this free plug-in installed. But, if yours does not, it is very easy to download and install. Try the module first because the software is "smart" enough to detect the Flash player. If the module doesn't begin, you will be automatically prompted to download the plug-in.

The module contains links to external websites which will open in a new browser window. Your browser's back button will not return to the module, so these new windows should be closed.

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