Chapter 2: Assessment

Assessing during intense moments

The paramedic says
Don explains how he manages the intensity of some palliative care calls. (3:22)Video transcript

The time before, during and after a person has died is highly stressful. Family members may feel overwhelmed and find they aren’t handling things as they imagined. Don’t forget that while someone’s reaction to dying or death may not make sense to us, all responses are profoundly human. People rarely do things for completely random reasons. Resist the urge to judge the family.

Slowing things down

Look for ways to slow down time.

  • Speak in a slow and measured way, with a calm and reassuring tone.
  • Proceed systematically in your assessment, in a straightforward, compassionate manner.
  • Where the goals of care are known, reassure the family that you're working to meet them.


For more information about goals of care, see Module 4, Decision-making.


Conversation Prompts

To slow things down you might say: 

"Let’s all sit down and review what’s happening now and what’s been happening over the last couple of days. This will help us develop a plan together."

Balancing patient care and family support

During intense moments while caring for the patient, it can be very challenging to make time for the family. Emotions may run high, creating additional stress for the family and for you.


For additional information and strategies you can use when facing interpersonal challenges with family members, see Module 5, Challenging situations.


Conversation Prompts

If you and your partner are both involved in rendering treatment to the patient that demands your full attention, try saying the following: 

"I’m not trying to ignore you or your questions. However, right now our medical interventions require that we give our total attention to [name of patient]. I’ll come back to you just as soon as I can."