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Communication at the End of Life


Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum, Howard Giles and Amber Worthington

Communication is at the heart of any complete understanding of the end of life. While it is true that individuals physically die as a single entity, the process of ending an individual life is located within a complex system of relationships and roles connected and constructed through communicative processes. In this volume, top scholars from numerous disciplines showcase the latest empirical investigations and theoretical advances that focus on communication at the end of life. This multi-contextual approach serves to integrate current findings, expand our theoretical understanding of the end of life, prioritize the significance of competent communication for scholars and practitioners, and provide a solid foundation upon which to build pragmatic interventions to assist individuals at the end of life as well as those who care for and grieve for those who are dying. This book is suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses in Death and Dying, Communication and Aging, Health Communication, Life Span Development, Life Span Communication, Long term care, Palliative care and Social Work.
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Chapter Eight: Family Decision Making and Care at the End of Life



Family Decision Making AND Care AT THE End OF Life



When we think of the end of life, we tend to focus on the individual who is dying; individuals, however, are nested in families. The death of one family member impacts other family members because they are interdependent—what happens to one member influences the others. Families are dynamic systems. While an individual family member may die, the family continues. In this chapter, we consider decision making by family members not only before and during the dying process of one of its members, but also after that death, as the family works to reconfigure itself.

Across the lifespan, health-related issues are central to family life (Pecchioni & Keeley, 2011). Families are the primary source of caregiving from birth to death, whether that care is the business of our daily lives, or focused during a health crisis. Habits established in childhood lay the groundwork for adulthood, potentially prolonging or negatively impacting the quality and quantity of life. Family members discuss a wide range of health-related topics, including nutrition, exercise, alcohol and substance use and abuse, sexuality and sexual health, and death and dying (Pecchioni, Overton, & Thompson, 2015). Families may discuss these topics more or less explicitly, while the behaviors that are enacted around health issues also send messages about how a particular family understands health and illness.

At the end...

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