Introducing difficult topics
Observe how other staff communicate distressing information and reflect on your own skills to identify what worked or did not.

Carefully plan what you will say.

Utilise the ASK - TELL - ASK strategy1


Basing information on what is already known and then checking for understanding can ensure greater clarity and understanding and avoid miscommunication.

Ask – Ask family members what they know about the resident’s condition, eg,” How do you think your mother’s condition has changed recently?”

Tell – Respond to family members’ ideas and expand on relevant points.

Ask – Confirm what has been understood, eg, “I’m sure you are worried about your mother, and I’ve just given you a lot of information. It would be helpful to me to hear what you understand about your mother’s health...”

  1. Back, A. L., Arnold, R. M., Baile, W. F., Tulsky, J. A., & Fryer‐Edwards, K. (2005). Approaching Difficult Communication Tasks in Oncology1. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 55(3), 164-177