Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Family Definition

For the purpose of this guideline, the family is defined as:

  • Being unique and whomever the individual identifies as being family.
  • An important nursing role is to assist families and their individual members move toward completion of individual and family developmental tasks throughout the lifespan (Friedman, 1992; Miller, Hornbrook, Archbold & Stewart, 1996).
  • When unexpected life events occur and a family member is at home or hospitalized with health care needs, the family experiences numerous complex demands (McDonald, Stetz & Compton, 1996).
  • Recent trends within the health care system have resulted in an increased need for awareness of the significance of the family when providing caregiving.
  • The increasing proportion of older people with disabilities and chronic illness, and technological advancements that enable medical treatments to be performed at home that were once only done in the hospital, have also dramatically changed the nature of home care (Ward-Griffiin & McKeever, 2000). These trends have resulted in an increased reliance on family and friends to meet the needs of the frail, ill or disabled (Fast & Keating, 2000).