Altered Family Process


Altered family processes can be related to the impact that an ill family member can have on the family system. An illness, hospitalization, surgery, previous diagnoses, coping styles, culture can all place tremendous stress on a family and greatly interfere with keeping a family strong and united.

To help family members deal with illness, the nurse can:

  • Assess causative and contributing factors — assist patient to define them.

  • Acknowledge your feelings about the family and their situation.

  • Approach family with warmth, respect and support.

  • Avoid vague and confusing advice and cliches. Be clear and concise.

  • Reflect family emotions to clarify these feelings (i.e. "this is very painful for you” or “you must find this very frightening”).

  • Identify family strengths to them.

  • Identify and involve family members in care of ill person if possible.

  • Involve family members in patient care conferences where appropriate.

  • Promote self-esteem of individual family members.

  • Facilitate communication; encourage verbalization of guilt, anger, blame and hostility and subsequent recognition of own feelings in family members.

  • Enlist help of other professionals when problems exceed realm of nursing – Enterostomal Nurse, Psychiatry, Social Work, Clinical Nurse Specialist.

  • Discuss stresses of hospitalization and assist patient to identify them.

  • Describe implications of the “sick role” and how it will return to the “well role”.

  • Facilitate family involvement with social supports. Identify social supports.

  • Assist family to re-organize roles at home and set priorities to maintain family integrity and reduce stress.

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