The ICU Guide for Families

The ICU Guide for Families

Understanding Intensive Care and How You Can Support Your Loved One

Lara Goitein


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ICU events are not uncommon but knowing what to do when a loved one is placed there is. This work explores the ICU with an eye toward guiding families to getting the best care for their beloved patient

Intensive care will touch almost all of us at some point – whether directly, or through our families and or friends. This book is for every family of patients in the ICU, who have suddenly entered an intimidating and alien world, in which they feel powerless and out of control. In simple, direct language, Lara Goitein, MD, gives clear explanations of all aspects of intensive care – what all those lines and tubes are; common conditions such as sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS); physical changes in patients and what they mean; common procedures and their risks and benefits; and the people and the culture of the ICU. One full section of the book is devoted to Covid-19-specific issues.

In addition, the book provides concrete advice for how family members can be effective advocates on behalf of their loved ones –what to know before giving consent for procedures, how to interact with ICU staff, how to help the ICU team guard against common complications of ICU care, and how to approach important decisions about end-of-life care. Along the way, the author gently reminds of us of what, in the end, matters most in the ICU.

For readers who may be distracted and exhausted, this is a clear, accessible guide with concrete recommendations for getting the best care and asking the right questions along the way. A compassionate resource in a time of extreme stress, this book offers support to anyone touched by an ICU stay.


Lara Goitein:

Lara Goitein, MD, is a physician specializing in pulmonary and critical care medicine, and has practiced in ICUs for twelve years, including at the Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA), Intermountain Healthcare (St. George, Utah), University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center (Seattle, WA), Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound (Redmond, WA), Presbyterian Hospital (Albuquerque, NM), and most recently at Christus St. Vincent Regional Health System (Santa Fe, New Mexico). In this capacity she has cared for thousands of patients and supported their families through their ICU stays. During the last five years, Dr. Goitein designed and implemented a novel hospital quality program. She is one of sixteen members of JAMA Internal Medicine’s editorial board and serves as a frequent reviewer and guest editor for that journal. She has been published frequently in leading medical journals as well as mainstream media outlets.