Background: The family response to critical illness includes development of adverse psychological outcomes such as anxiety, acute stress disorder, posttraumatic stress, depression, and complicated grief. This cluster of complications from exposure to critical care is now entitled postintensive care syndrome–family. Adverse psychological outcomes occur in parents of neonatal and pediatric patients and in family members of adult patients, and may be present for >4 yrs after intensive care unit discharge. Psychological repercussions of critical illness affect the family member's ability to fully engage in necessary care-giving functions after hospitalization.
Prevention: It has been suggested that the manner in which healthcare workers communicate with family members and the way in which families are included in care and decision-making, may affect long-term outcomes. Preventive strategies for optimal communication and inclusion in care are reviewed.
Assessment: Many tools are available to assess the risk for and to diagnose postintensive care syndrome–family conditions during hospitalization and at intervals after discharge.
Treatment: Visits after discharge, support groups, and clinics have been proposed for assessing the need for professional referrals as well as for treating family members when psychological illness persists. Studies evaluating these measures are reviewed.