Starting the dialogue … in the Intensive Care Unit and/or hospital

Even without having conversations about advance care planning, people get sick or find themselves in a crisis. When doctors talk to families, it can be hard for families because they are unsure what decisions to make or how their loved one would make decisions.

It can be helpful for families to make a list of questions to ask the doctors and take notes as they hear information. Doctors provide a lot of information and it can be difficult to remember all the information and your questions. 

Some questions to have with the doctors may be:

  • Why is your loved one in the hospital/emergency room/intensive care unit?
  • What has happened since then?
  • What other medical problems they currently have?
  • What treatments are being given or are being planned?
  • What are the possible outcomes of each treatment?
  • Are there other treatment options?
  • What are the burdens of the treatment as compared to the benefits?
  • What decisions do we have to make right now and what decisions will we have to make later.
  • What gives value to life for our loved one? How would that be changed with the different treatment options available?

At some point, it would also be a good idea to have a family meeting to get everyone on the same page with the current situation. Hospital staff can help obtain the key players needed to be there such as:

  • The primary doctors and other consulting doctors
  • Nurse
  • Social worker
  • Chaplain/spiritual support person