Family Conflict

Family Conflict

What we know

Providing end of life care can lead to significant burden and strain, It can also affect the relationship between the carer and care recipient and/or the wider family. Family conflict can have negative effects on the patient's health and well-being.  Measuring and identifying family conflict can be problematic.

What can I do

Ask the person who they would like to include in family meetings, or make him or her aware of when information is discussed relating to his or her care or end-of-life planning.

Arranging a family meeting can help to assess who will be involved in the caregiving role and risk of conflict and distress this may create.

Carers NSW has factsheets on: Assertiveness for carers (68kb pdf) and How and why to hold a family meeting (56kb pdf).

The Reachout website has information on Families.

Make sure you have people to debrief with either formally or informally as an activity of self-care after managing an episode of conflict. You can find out more on the Self-Care pages.

Make use of:

Visit CarerHelp to download resources for carers.


What can I learn?

Read: PCNOW has a series of factsheets that you can read including THE FAMILY MEETING: Causes Conflict.

Dealing with conflicts (108kb pdf) can help guide discussion in family meeting to determine risk of conflict and provides opportunity to address issues early.

Read the information on family conflict (Better Health Channel); although not specific to palliative care or aged care it has useful information.

Read: Broom A, Kirby E. The end of life and the family: hospice patients’ views on dying as relational. Sociol Health Illn. 2013 May;35(4):499-513.


What can my organisation do

Direct the person to information and legal representation on ‘Enduring power of attorney’ in the event a proxy decision maker will be required.

Scheduling time for meetings with the family regarding end of life care planning - written guidance may reduce conflict or burden in decision making for family members (Advance Care Planning).

Having a list of support groups or interventions run by the health service or local groups may be useful in re-directing families suffering from distress and conflict.

Offer professional development activities around conflict management. In scenarios where the conflict is becoming distressing the facility should consider using a mediator or professional service to counsel the family and assist in positive communication strategies.

Offer staff mentoring or facilitate time to debrief with team members to promote staff self-care.

Page updated 23 April 2020