Patient Referral

How to Hold a Successful Palliative Care Family Meeting

palliative family meeting

When dealing with a serious illness, it is important for families to be on the same page about the patient’s plan of care. Palliative care family meetings are an important tool in identifying the patient’s wishes, guiding decision making, and creating patient-centered goals.

A palliative care family meeting gives the patient, their family, and the healthcare team an opportunity to share information and concerns about all aspects of the patient’s care including their physical care, psychosocial care, and spiritual care and the role family dynamics will play in that care.

A palliative care family meeting can reduce misunderstandings, ease care transitions, and help patients and their families navigate difficult decisions.

family meeting palliative

When should you hold a palliative care family meeting? 

When someone is facing a serious illness, it affects their whole family. Every situation is unique, but some times when a palliative care family meeting should be considered include:

  • A change in the patient’s prognosis
  • An adjustment to goals of care
  • After multiple readmissions
  • A change in the patient’s clinical status
  • Addressing family concerns
  • Addressing family or patient stress or anxiety

family meeting healthcare

A Palliative Care Family Meeting Template

When planning a palliative care family meeting, if possible, you should ask the patient who they would like to attend. Decision makers and those who will affect the decision-making process should all attend. One person should be designated as the spokesperson to relay information to extended family members and friends who are part of the meeting.

  1. Before the meeting.

Each side of the meeting should come prepared. The healthcare team will review the patient file, advance care planning documents, and recommendations from the patient’s care team. Families should also prepare by reviewing their understanding of their loved one’s healthcare wishes and writing down any questions or concerns the family has.

Schedule the meeting in a setting that allows for privacy, seating for all attendees, and minimal distractions. While it is helpful to have everyone in the same room, it’s also a good idea to make use of technology like Zoom or a conference call to ensure that all stakeholders can participate.

  1. Opening the meeting.

Open the meeting by having everyone introduce themselves and share their relationship to the patient. Set a clear goal for the meeting whether it’s to discuss a change in the care plan or address a particular issue.

  1. Put your cards on the table.

Family members should share what they understand about their loved one’s medical condition and how things have been going recently.

The healthcare team should outline the patient’s current clinical condition. If reviewing options, they should present any risks, as well as the expected outcome and prognosis.

  1. Ask questions.

Expect there to be questions on both sides. The healthcare team may have questions about goals and expectations. Families may have questions about care options and prognosis.

The patient, the family and the healthcare team should use this time to create a plan that aligns with the patient’s goals. If the patient is unable to communicate their wishes and hasn’t made their wishes clear or set a healthcare power of attorney, the healthcare team will explain the options to the family as well as clarifying the hierarchy of who is able to make decisions.

  1. Review the next steps.

As the meeting comes to a close, review what the care plan will be moving forward and what the goals are. If necessary, schedule a follow-up meeting for a future date.

Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care supports patients and families facing serious or terminal illness. Visit our website for hospice education resources for patients or families or call us at 1-888-564-3405 for more information.


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